30 April 2008

Dungeon Zero

Greek Easter signals the descent of the hordes.

Suddenly the supermarkets ring with foreign accents and ignorant jostling and time-consuming offerings of credit cards sans adequate ID.

The Germans aren't the worst, but the residue's there: 20 years ago when I started coming, my Viking-featured Yorkshire father kept being asked if he was German.

Greece and Corfu were not handled delicately by the sons of the Reich.

Even today I tremble un peu whenever I hear the guttural accents of Germaniki countrymen of the woman I can't un-adore.

Just this morning I was shopping at Alpha Beta and a hefty bullyboy came in waving a large € note that he expected to be changed.

Jowelly giant, mega Beemer badly parked outside, and I'm talking giant - the sort I'd've been disembowelled by whilst not saving Private Ryan.

Stood there waving the note and bulldozing the queues til Dimitra must've decided what the fuck and gave him the 50s and 20s he was after.

But this Josef Fritzl 24-year incestuosity is playing big out here and there were hellenic mutterings of 'Get back to yer dungeon' and when he got out there his van was scatched up good with crude memos that Cavafy never coined.

You read it first here and I'll continue to report ....

28 April 2008

Top 10 Guitarists You don't know

Actually, I did know most of them but I'm impressed the *compiler* knew them.

Also, me being me and my pals being who *they* are, most readers of this blog will know at least 7/10 of these strummers and pickers and no shame in not knowing the rest. I just have too much time on my hands so I hang around musical friends and old shops that let me play their stuff.

I'm a bit alarmed that the Rev Gary is here, likewise Emily R who every self-respecting guitar fan should have got to know back in the days when we were snorting 'A woman jazz guitarist? Chortle."

27 April 2008

Seeking entrée

Intriguing Personal advert in The Spectator of 19 April:

"LADY WRITER seeks an entrée to Harry's Bar St James's, in relation to the next chapter of her novel. Write to Box etc"

It could almost be the theme of some competition:

Seek an entrée to A in relation to B.
Most imaginative submission wins a salmanazar of bubbly.

Depicting a byegone era: Back to Lady Writer, I trust she's read the redoubtable Taki's take on the club.

Common sense abroad

Marvelous shrewd piece by estate agent Miranda Ingram that applies to everywhere - Greece as well as France.

It demands to be shared among all my Corfu-based estate agent hustler pals.

50 best cult books

The Telegraph runs a feature on "cult books" and I read it with a wry smile over my Easter lamb.

Thanks to my stint during the 1970s as publicist for the noble publishing house of Secker & Warburg (not forgetting the remarkable acquisitive eye of our MD at the time, the no less great TG Rosenthal - hi Tom!), a surprising number of those 'cult' scribblers "resonate" with me, as my American cousins would have it.

  • Germaine Greer, whose "Obstacle Race" I promoted, being the "Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work". And here's a trivial pursuit winner: the pictures editor for this book became my wife.
  • Erica Jong: I did the press and PR for the UK edition of 'Fear of Flying', and even got a few zipless ones out of it with certain journos keen to clinch interviews with Ms Jong.

    We flew Erica over to promote the book on radio and TV, and I even drove her up to my old alma mater, Oxford University, where she put in research for what I believe ended up as the romp, "Fanny, Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones".

  • Italo Calvino - another Secker author.
  • Alexandria Quartet: My mother got to know Durrell quite well. One luncheon at our Corfu house, a baby swallow fell from a nest and Larry (rather a squat chappie) grabbed a ladder and shoved the wee feathery lad back home before his parents spotted him AWOL. There is also a postcard somewhere in Mum's letter box from Larry luring her over to Paris. She did not take up the invite.
  • Sylvia Plath - my publicity office at Secker also housed most of the file copies and Ms Plath's work(s) occupied a 4th shelf just above my right ear. I was unaware of her importance at the time but most of my lady visitors would eventually glimpse The Name and do the 1974 equivalent of 'oh my gahd' and then fall silent. I know, a tenuous connection ....

Ah Secker ... how are the mighty fallen.

When I joined, its office was in Carlisle Street of darkest Soho, and John Blackwell and I would prop up the bar of the Nellie Dean. Then we moved to Poland Street and financed the Star & Garter.

Now it's part of some ghastly conglomerate in the back of beyond.

Good times, good people.

Doing God

I ask my martial arts pals if they spot any actual skill or menace from the Chinese thugs in blue 'escorting' the flame under their guise as the 'Olympic Holy Flame Protection Unit'.

Does not the sight of these goons banish once and for all the idea that the Olympic Games are not ‘political’?

Since the Olympic Games do not do God either, the idea that the flame is ‘holy’ is also rather rich, especially coming from China.

The ancient Greeks did god in a big way at the Olympic Games, since the Games were held in honour of Zeus, god of Olympus (not that Mount Olympus was anywhere near the site).

Zeus, having come to power by destroying all his rivals (including his father Cronus), was thought of as being especially keen on humans doing the same in the ‘purest’ of all arenas.

The image of Zeus in Olympia, thunderbolt in each hand, terrified the participants into keeping it clean.

The ancient Olympic Games were not ‘political’ for two reasons:

  1. Cities did not compete to stage them in an effort to showcase what wonderful go-ahead investment opportunities they offered.
  2. The Games were held at the same place every four years, the site of the far-away sanctuary to Zeus Olympios in the north-west Peloponnese, where basically nothing else happened.

26 April 2008

Sexiest Woman

Nothing to do with me. Judge for yerself: Megan Fox voted sexiest woman.

I'm only here to provide eye candy

Genocide Olympics smoking ban

Not just smoking *ban* but 40,000 stool-pigeon inspectors ready to rat on us puffers.

Forget whatever hi-jinx those Tibet protesters manage to get up to over the torch relay, this will be the killer last straw to ensure 'there will be blood' (such a good all-purpose phrase).

I see elsewhere that Interpol fear some sort of slaughter. How could there NOT be with this anti-baccy rubbish planned?

Botanical Art

I read of the recent opening of the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at Kew Gardens.

The "first gallery in the world dedicated to botanical art and open to the public all year round."

It will exhibit precious works of art from the collections of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Dr Shirley Sherwood, many of which have never been on public display before."

I wonder if it is the real thing. If it has any Marjorie Holmes.

25 April 2008


Damn'd nuisance.

Suddenly a few days ago my gmail inbox filled with reports of inability to deliver the below message accompanied by whole swathes of my Contacts list.

A few folks checked with me if it really came from me.

And my entire address book has been deleted.

Dear friend,

We are so sorry for disturbing your precious time. we are an authorized export wholesaler.

We mainly supply Laptops, Notebooks, Digital Cameras ,Digital Video,Televisions,Ipods, Mobiles, PDA, GPS,PS3,PSP and so on.

We will supply the reasonable price and best quality items.

You could register to be a member of our website. And you can order it online and fill the order letter,or contact us for the items through email.

If you have any questions,please contact us by the following ways

  • WEBSITE: http://www.honesty1.com/
  • MSN: honesty158@hotmail.com
  • EMAIL: honesty158@hotmail.com
  • Thanks for your golden time.

    Best wishes to you and all your family members.

  • Golden time - phooey

    23 April 2008

    The Culprit Mail

    Egads, the wretched spam even invaded this blog.

    It occurs to me that, since these Honesty tradespersons list contact details, I ought to get on to Gmail and report this to someone. Or those UCE.GOV people referred to in the Gmail Help pages. No?

    Here's the message which, since you're reading this blog, you may very well have received in your in-box supposedly from me. For which 1,000 groveling apologies.

    Dear friend,
          We are so sorry for disturbing your precious time. we are an authorized export wholesaler.
          We mainly supply Laptops, Notebooks, Digital Cameras ,Digital Video,
    Televisions,Ipods, Mobiles, PDA, GPS,PS3,PSP and so on. We will supply
    the reasonable price and best quality items.
         You could register to be a member of our website. And you can order it online and fill the order letter,or contact us for the items through email.
         If you have any questions,please contact us by the following ways  WEBSITE: http://www.honesty1.com/
      MSN: honesty158@hotmail.com
      EMAIL: honesty158@hotmail.com
    Thanks for your golden time.
     Best wishes to you and all your family members.
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    22 April 2008

    Take this pie and ... shovel it

    How to make shepherd's pie ...

    The puns are endless:

    You say tomato, i say ... thump

    More catsup? Salt? Light sprinkling of petrol?

    18 April 2008

    Cherchez le chef

    I do like The Economist's telling of how:

    "the most telling indicator of the prospects of Silicon Valley's technology firms is ... the cooks.

    The insightful few on Wall Street who understood this in 1999 are now rich. That year, Google, which had just 40 employees at the time, held a cook-off to anoint its “chief food officer”. Charlie Ayers, who had once fed the Grateful Dead, won. Over the next six years, he led Google, which was also dabbling in web searches and online advertising, to dominance in its core competency: ample, free, organic and exotic food."

    I love that "also dabbling in web searches and online advertising" ...

    "But by all measures gastronomic, Google was still the dominant firm—until now. One of Google's current chefs is Josef Desimone, who is admired chiefly for the kombucha tea that he ferments from scratch and that gets the employees' creative juices flowing. Now however, Mr Desimone is smelling the coffee. He has given notice to Google, and will soon start work at Facebook. On Wall Street, no doubt, the short sellers have taken note."

    17 April 2008


    She writes,

    "I have a lovely joke for you.
    It is very simple, short and pure (bit like one of those Japanese haiku poems):

    There are two goldfish in a tank.
    One of them says to the other:
    "How the hell do we drive this thing?"

    World Population Clock

    16 April 2008

    parking corfu-style

    I like driving in Corfu more 'n' you

    I'm driving down the main Kondokali road and my mother is with me and she's talking about this or that and I'm not listening, and we stop at the lights. I'm not paying attention except to the lights because I hate it when I delay by 0.75 seconds to go and she says 'green'. I hate that. I'm certainly not heeding what's going on in the mirror.

    Until suddenly I am.

    40 years I've been driving so I expect I've become used to the speed of cars coming up in the mirror when I'm stationary. Something about the car heading my way that jarrs with my 40-yr memory of how cars usually approach.

    My mother is gabbing on but I'm watching this car. It's not going fast but it's going too fast to slow and stop in a conventional way.

    The profile of the driver's head against the back window is odd - it's wobbling and waving and he doesn't seem to be in charge.

    I'm far enough back from the car ahead to be able to turn the Nissan right and onto the parking strip just to the right of me. This I do, suddenly and fast so my mother asks me what the heck I'm doing. As I scoot out, the car behind just clips my rear right fender as it careens into the van in front.

    I get out with my camera to snap the scene and the head-lolling driver is suddenly looking OK. Shaken but ok, as if his head was never lolling and as if he never came up on me too fast to make sense.

    The van driver gets out and the two look at the damage before looking at me.

    "Why'd you move?" demands the van driver. "Yeah, what're you doing suddenly leaving the road like that?" glowers the head loller.

    "To avoid you hitting me?" I ask. "Better you clout this tough van than my cardboard toy car." This in my halting Greek, so now they know I'm fair game. I mean, by all the poems of Telesilla! Bloody foreigner can't stay in place? He has the affrontery to avoid impact and thus causes the cars of honest sons of Spiridon to bump and crash?? Cheek!

    This little chat went on for a while and there was a bizarre element to it: didn't I see that if everyone suddenly zipped out of line and mounted the pavement, accidents could happen. What if there'd been a child playing right there? A venerable hag tottering by? Suppose there'd been another car there?

    By this time my mother had joined us and added her more fluent fish wife accents, including references to the health (for which read sobriety) of the loller. Just what the Greeks love - arguments.

    Posted by Picasa

    11 April 2008

    Starving Dog as Art

    Today's Athens News (11 April 2008) carries a report of a heart-twanging story from 2007 of a Costa Bravan artist who allegedly starved a dog to death as part of his art exhibition.

    Muchas weeping and gnashing, of course, and there's even a petition (in Spanish).

    I'm always suspicious when Snopes stays on the sidelines.

    However, I am also British and we know how to deal with blighters who are horrid to our best friends.

    If I was Chuck Bronson and this was Chatopoulos' Land, the gallery would suddenly be announced as closed 'til further notice for essential refurbishment.

    When the smell got too much and they broke the door down, the arty Guillermo Vargas would be found artistically handcuffed to a radiator, his outstretched fingers mere inches from food and water.

    On the other hand, there's Digg who calls it tosh and just another way of showing what sheep we all are.

    Go figure ....

    Après Post: Tiens! In response to this post, a reader in murkiest Manila googled and sends me this clip from my very own Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

    10 April 2008


    I accompany maman to the local Ropa Valley nursery. I don't like to because yardwork is one of those drudge hobbies I have absobloodylutely nuffink in common wiv, and after 10 or so minutes it starts to test my temper.

    I particularly don't like visiting this nursery coz they have lovely big Bruno chained there 24/7 and he's gentle as a lamb, even when the local squits try to taunt him, but chained he stays and never gets to go walkabout.

    Which is ironic that I post this, days before i even heard of the case of the starving dog.

    dog at ropa valley nursery 


    08 April 2008


    I like an escalator because an escalator can never break, it can only become stairs.

    There would never be an

    'Escalator temporarily out of order' sign, only an

    'Escalator temporarily out of order. Please use stairs.
    Sorry for the convenience.'
    - Mitch Hedberg

    07 April 2008


    Two weeks to build a miniature Leaning Tower of Pisa with some sort of building blocks.

    Guinness Book of Records coming next week to evaluate it for inclusion.

    Right from the start, you can tell that the buffoon of an interviewer is a walking disaster.

    What does he do with the microphone lead?

    It's too painful to watch more than once ...

    06 April 2008

    Nutcase Country

    I'm delighted to see the shambly Brits getting their act together to disrupt China's PR stunt for their Genocide Olympics. The Olympic Committee's only chance to have rich governments keep up the funding is to cram the Games with pretension.

    If it wasn't a dictatorship, China would never have come up with the $30 billion budget that these Games will cost.

    And look at the UK caving in - “Zil lanes” down the Mile End Road for personal limousines ... a disgrace.

    And what is this crap about the torch? What “symbol of peace, justice and brotherhood ... bringing people together on its journey of harmony”.

    This is Monty Python territory: the mother flame jetted round the world in its own jet; 10 “flame attendants”; its own motorcade; its own hotel room surrounded by guards.

    British taxpayers are forking out £1m on eight hours of police overtime all for the lighting of the “Olympic cauldron” at the Millennium Dome.

    If this were not the Olympics it would be total nutcase country, with the Witches of the Sabbath and the Flat Earth Society demanding equal time.

    death by blog

    was waiting for this. a bit fanciful but it does make sense in a way.

    04 April 2008

    Tutti fanno così. Perché non io?

    Because I sometimes visit a house in Tuscany to which my children's memorabilia of their dad were secretively whisked, and which I long to hear have, à la Stephen King scribbles, emitted a suppurating evil karma throughout the thieving abode, leaving harm and misery in the after-fumes ... because of this tenuous connection, I often give articles on that country a second glance.

    As a result, I caught witty Melissa Morozzo della Rocca's amusing assertion that, "Sometimes living in Italy you're forced to break the law."

    It took her eight months and five grovelling visits to sprawling offices to get a sticker smaller than a postage stamp declaring that her driving licence is recognised by the Italian state.

    "It's not so much about checking your right to have an Italian licence but testing your will to survive against the unscalable granite rock face that is an Italian public office."

    An Italian friend pointed out that she could have paid a little extra and gone to the Ufficio Sbriga Pratiche, which loosely translated means the "Office for Hurrying Along Applications for Documents". This is Italy's answer to the unemployment problem. Why simplify the existing channels when you can open another office that charges extra to do exactly the same thing but quicker?

    Cunning - furbizia - is valued more highly than anything else, including the Pope, espresso and La Mamma.

    Melissa mentions Italians knack for finding creative solutions and cites the Neapolitan who designed a T-shirt with a seat belt drawn across it, to avoid belting up.

    Oy! Back in 1997, when I was living on Bainbridge Island, WA, I got so fed up with a certain law enforcer pulling me over for beltless probable cause, then sniffing my breath or espying on the passenger seat what he insisted on calling "drug paraphernalia", that I laboriously sewed a swathe of cloth across one of my umpteen Amazon.com t-shirts just to keep PC Plod off my back. Not much furbizia about that.

    Passport Application

    I got this in the post the other day, sent it to various pals, and got such a good reaction that I decided to claim it as my own find.

    Now y'all get to read it ...

    Dear Minister,

    I'm in the process of renewing my passport but am at a total loss to understand or believe the hoops I am being asked to jump through.

    How is it that Bert Smith of T.V. Rentals Basingstoke has my address and telephone number and knows that I bought a satellite dish from them back in 1994, and yet, the Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date?

    How come that nice West African immigrant chappy who comes round every Thursday night with his DVD rentals van can tell me every film or video I have had out since he started his business up eleven years ago, yet you still want me to remind you of my last three jobs, two of which were with contractors working for the government?

    How come the T.V. detector van can tell if my T.V. is on, what channel I am watching and whether I have paid my licence or not, and yet if I win the government-run lottery they have no idea I have won or where I am and will keep the bloody money to themselves if I fail to claim in good time?

    Do you people do this by hand?

    You have my birth date on numerous files you hold on me, including the one with all the income tax forms I've filed for the past 30-odd years. It's on my health insurance card, my driver's licence, on the last four passports I've had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I've had to fill out before being allowed off the planes and boats over the last 30 years, and all those insufferable census forms that are done every ten years and the electoral registration forms I have to complete, by law, every time our lords and masters are up for re-election.

    Would somebody please take note, once and for all, I was born in Maidenhead on the 4th of March 1957, my mother's name is Mary, her maiden name was Reynolds, my father's name is Robert, and I'd be absolutely astounded if that ever changed between now and the day I die!

    I apologise Minister. I'm obviously not myself this morning. But between you and me, I have simply had enough! You mail the application to my house, then you ask me for my address. What is going on? Do you have a gang of Neanderthals working there? Look at my damn'd picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I don't want to activate the Fifth Reich, for God's sake! I just want to park my weary backside on a sunny, sandy beach for a couple of weeks' well-earned rest away from all this crap.

    Well, must rush, because I have to go back to Salisbury and get another copy of my birth certificate because you lost the last one. AND to the tune of 60 quid! What a racket THAT is!! Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new passport the same day? But nooooo, that'd be too damn'd easy and maybe make sense. You'd rather have us running all over the place like chickens with our heads cut off, then find some tosser to confirm that it's really me on the goddamn picture - you know ... the one in which we're not allowed to smile in case we look as if we are enjoying the process!

    Hey, you know why we can't smile? 'Cause we're totally jacked off!

    I served in the armed forces for more than 25 years including over ten years at the Ministry of Defence in London. I have had security clearances which allowed me to sit in the Cabinet Office, five seats away from the Prime Minister while he was being briefed on the first Gulf War and I have been doing volunteer work for the British Red Cross ever since I left the Services.

    However, I have to get someone 'important' to verify who I am -- you know, someone like my doctor... who, before he got his medical degree 6 months ago, WAS LIVING IN PAKISTAN ...

    Yours sincerely,

    An Irate British Citizen.

    03 April 2008

    Plagiarize Plagiarize

    ("Let no one else's work evade your eyes" - T. Lehrer)

    Linda is a striking woman in her mumble-50s and the dragon of our literary group.

    Think Edna O'Brien meets Sue Sarandon meets Alison Janney.

    She stands erect (quiet in the backrow, you smut-heads) and has a way of tossing her tresses without her piercing eyes leaving yours.

    She is a 'writer', a winner of short story competitions in various literary mags and in touch with the great and the good.

    She submits poems to the local rags which are of course accepted and complimented at the next meeting and often read aloud in her mellifluous voice which makes it hard to assess them for actual worth.

    Now and then she has amusing articles printed which are not bad and which are quoted back at her by sycophantic swain while she smiles wanly and touches their arm and thanks them so much.

    Now and then she mails me draft for me to "look over" which I do with trembling eyeballs and suggest the minorest of changes, rather like when asked in interviews to name a fault and one sheepishly owns up to being a perfectionist or impatient with fools.

    Once when I had read a faultless piece about my grandmother draping her deaf aid inside my Baguio nylon-string and instructing, "Now, luv, sing me your busking song again. I don't think I caught all the verses", Linda asked, "May I make a suggestion?"

    She may'd and I noted it with a "Noted, thanks, but you're wrong."

    She came up to me later over the wine and houmous and said, "I like a man who stands up to me."

    "Ooh hoo," cackled Brian, "so, if you say she's got a beautiful body would she hold it against you, right?" My dear, her withering look.

    Word had it that Bri' sometimes got to hang his Y-fronts on her bathroom door handle so I nodded at her power breasts and murmured with a foolhardy wink, "Well, he ain't seeing none of them tonight."

    My dear, her look.

    Last year a dear friend passed away, a lady the Pearly Gates side of 90 with a library to die for. She told her mother she wanted us to take everything, choose for ourselves and donate the rest to the church.

    I finally got round to dipping into some of the gems and went to bed with a 1920 first-edition uncut volume of Wm. Heinemann's publication of Max Beerbohm's essays, "And Even Now."

    I reached his essay "How shall I word it?", a witty parody of an eponymous 1910 self-help subtitled "A complete letter writer for Men and Women".

    [I shall fill in some titles anon. They are hilarious in their precious datedness]

    Beerbohm dishes up some hob-nailed alternatives, uncanny in their universality and timeless appeal.

    My dear, I froze.

    It was almost word for word one of Linda's most hailed pieces. I even got up, checked against the relevant article and headed for the drinks cabinet.

    I tried Googling phrases from other pièces de résistance but nothing, thank God. But there was one that had vexed me for its excellence.

    Two days ago I found myself back in touch with a decrepit Oxford don whose reading is formidable in the field of wit and parody. I sent him the piece and asked did any phrases ring a bell.

    "My dear Christopher,
    Shame on you. I distinctly remember recommending darling Arthur Marshall as light reading away from Lycidas and your obsession with the wit and wisdom of Falstaff.
    The text you sent me is straight out of Arthur's "Girls will be Girls" and his essay on the schoolgirl novels of Angela Brazil, 'For she's a jolly good fellow.'

    "I had you down for the colonial service and eternal suffering in wedlock to The Hon. Jane Champion, otherwise you would have spotted this in a trice.
    Moving on, your photographs of your mother's garden are superb and Janet needs to know what soil she recommends for our far from blossoming anthemis.

    "I have a new book out this autumn which your Amazon people resolutely refuse to display to any effect."
    Etc etc.

    What to do about Linda-gate?

    I carried the 'bohm with me to the last gathering and made sure L saw me perusing it. Not a blanch. Quel femme.

    But I have ideas up my sleeve. More anon.

    01 April 2008

    Livre Lapin

    Feeling terribly pleased with self.

    Just been invited by the ultra-chic and exclusive BookRabbit to join its ranks.

    Preen. Hop.

    Parlez-vous Panglais?

    Or rather, "Milate pangkila;" for them of us out here.

    Whatever it is, i trust they find something more graceful than 'panglish'. I winced at Pangloss and I wince at this. Ugh.

    So, some prof at Towson University in Maryland USA believes we'll be yammering Panglish in 100 years?

    English as she is spoken today will have disappeared and replaced by a global glottal?

    Do you know? From wot I hear as I cruise me old 'hoods of Swiss Cottage, Clapham and Kennington, I wouldn't be surprised.

    These days, I can hardly understand my own contemporaries, what with their Yo, dude!s and, like, use of like like every third word, like, like know wot I mean chief?

    'Pon my soul, I sometimes think that yon Master Headley (whom God preserve) and She-with-the-wan-smile about-to-be made-respectable are the only two remaining stalwartettes with whom I can hold a decent conversagger.

    I'm more inclined to heed the New Scientist's observation that "the global form of English is already becoming a loose grouping of local dialects and English-based common languages used by non-native speakers to communicate."

    great april fools