31 January 2009

Names of Things You Never Knew had Names

I'm trying to write my next column but all I've got is dishy dirt gossip from my informants that the editor will excise as is her wont.

So I'm reduced to wordsmithery stuff - which I love - such as nutty names:

  1. AGLET - The plain or ornamental covering on the end of a shoelace.
  2. ARMSAYE - The armhole in clothing.
  3. CHANKING - Spat-out food, such as rinds or pits.
  4. COLUMELLA NASI - The bottom part of the nose between the nostrils.
  5. DRAGÉES - Small beadlike pieces of candy, usually silver-coloured, used for decorating cookies, cakes and sundaes.
  6. FEAT - A dangling curl of hair.
  7. FERRULE - The metal band on a pencil that holds the eraser in place.
  8. HARP - The small metal hoop that supports a lampshade.
  9. HEMIDEMISEMIQUAVER - A 64th note. (A 32nd is a demisemiquaver, and a 16th note is a semiquaver.)
  10. JARNS, NITTLES, GRAWLIX, and QUIMP - Various squiggles used to denote cussing in comic books.
  11. KEEPER - The loop on a belt that keeps the end in place after it has passed through the buckle.
  12. KICK or PUNT - The indentation at the bottom of some wine bottles. It gives added strength to the bottle but lessens its holding capacity.
  13. LIRIPIPE - The long tail on a graduate's academic hood.
  14. MINIMUS - The little finger or toe.
  15. NEF - An ornamental stand in the shape of a ship.
  16. OBDORMITION - The numbness caused by pressure on a nerve; when a limb is 'asleep'.
  17. OCTOTHORPE - The symbol '#' on a telephone handset. Bell Labs' engineer Don Macpherson created the word in the 1960s by combining octo-, as in eight, with the name of one of his favourite athletes, 1912 Olympic decathlon champion Jim Thorpe.
  18. OPHRYON - The space between the eyebrows on a line with the top of the eye sockets.
  19. PEEN - The end of a hammer head opposite the striking face.
  20. PHOSPHENES - The lights you see when you close your eyes hard. Technically the luminous impressions are due to the excitation of the retina caused by pressure on the eyeball.
  21. PURLICUE - The space between the thumb and extended forefinger.
  22. RASCETA - Creases on the inside of the wrist.
  23. ROWEL - The revolving star on the back of a cowboy's spurs.
  24. SADDLE - The rounded part on the top of a matchbook.
  25. SCROOP - The rustle of silk.
  26. SNORKEL BOX - A mailbox with a protruding receiver to allow people to deposit mail without leaving their cars.
  27. SPRAINTS - Otter dung.
  28. TANG - The projecting prong on a tool or instrument.
  29. WAMBLE - Stomach rumbling.
  30. ZARF - A holder for a handleless coffee cup.

Most are useless but I can spot some goodies:

  • Next time I lay out my sumptuous mezès -olives, pippy nibbles - I'll plonk a sideplate next to Dermot, "Here, you scruff, these are for your chanks."
  • "Allow me, m'dear. An errant feat."
  • "Ack - don't you hate waking from a siesta with obdormition?"
  • "Hammer, Greg? Coming up, mate. Lemme me just wipe the peen."
  • Can't wait to visit the ex ma-in-law and head out to some Nacogdoches dive and fall into convo with some Sam Elliott clone. Ya know? "I say, I do like your rowels." "Thet so? (Rumble) Well just leave my feats alone."
  • "Ah! There comes Clarissa now - that unmistakeable scroop."
  • Was that my wamble? I do beg your pardon."
  • Fellatur in Decatur

    I'm sorry, I meant Battle in Seattle.

    I watched the DVD last night with a box of Kleenex next to the Metaxa in case I needed to wipe away my excess blubbing of nostalgia.

    I and other Amazon stalwarts were there, in our grandstand cubicles overlooking the fray.

    The toffs abed in Pacmed will have thought themselves accursed they were not there.

    We were just round the corner from the WTO confab and looked down at the protesters smashing windows (or trying) while others tried to stem the vandalism. Now and then there'd be the distant sound of a mob charging and if you haven't heard that mass roar, it's an animal sound which the amphitheatres must have rocked to with each new batch of Christians coming up close 'n' personal with those hungry lions.

    Seattle looked wonderful thru my homesick tears altho' the movie itself seemed a bit fanciful.

    I looked for me shuffling down to the ferry thru the mists of tear gas but I think the cameras were more interested in Ms Theron.

    Au sujet de that stinging lacrymogène, Mr Zachary Works of the parishes of Interlaken and West Texas wrote a good piece which, to my jealousy, appeared in Salon (no less), damn his wily pen.

    We were given pieces of headed paper to wave at the Guards to get in and out but they didn't cut much ice one evening when we left by the back-of-building loading bay to find one squad charging up one end of the alley and another stomping down on us from t'other.

    The Emerald City made all the front pages and my inbox when I got home was crammed with worried messages.

    Amazon was in the heart of the posh shopping district and les citoyens were targeting all the brand names.

    What saved us , in my opinion, was Lord Preston of Bezosia's prescient lack of vanity in having no signage up to give away that here be Masters of the Universe bent on world domination.

    Phew. All I could think of was the shame of Ms Julie Vick seeing me in my true colours as the barbarians broke in and their eyes blazed with lust at the cowering cutie from Colorado.

    Worst, the Mountain Man would have had no problem carving a swathe through the ruffians, scooping up la JV by her svelte waist and abseiling down to demolish further hordes as he whistled up his steed and galloped thru the mist to safety, Miss Vick whimpering 'my hero' and the fuzz exchanging admiring grunts, "Dude! Who wuz  that tangle-haired toughie?"

    Now there's  your trailer.

    30 January 2009

    28 January 2009

    1,474 megapixels

    Photographer David Bergman made a massive composite 1,474 megapixel photograph of the Inaugural audience at the moment Barack Obama gave his address.

    This means that you can zoom in on any point in the crowd and see clear faces, the sort of technology that the CIA always seems to have in spy movies. It's quite fun.


    shoe shoes

    My daughters love the silly double-name of this shop.

    What does it mean?

    But when they enter therein it doesn't matter: the footwear on display seems modern and cheap enough.

    shoe & shoes

    Posted by Picasa

    27 January 2009

    Work is good for you

    In the post, a cutting from a London pal of Glasgow GP Margaret McCartney's riveting Second opinion piece on the importance of work.

    I know that already, and to my increasing distress and cost, having traded 35 years' even slog for languid lotus munching among the strumbergia.

    But what timing - the article was waiting for me at the end of a day's immensely pleasurable walking and mingling that made me yearn to get back to some sort of work routine.

    The car's in for four days' servicing and I'm tempted to encourage them to keep it longer, such is the joy of busing and posing as an honest ouvrier.

    First off, it was a gorgeous day which I used as an excuse to explore a suspected short cut from the garage to the Potamos junction. I was right and felt so pleased with myself that I decided to walk on and if reached a bus shelter as the #7 pulled up, so be it.

    As it was, I ended up walking the whole way to town and now know many of the sidestreets intimately.

    So what has Dr McCartney to say? Some very interesting points that I will be pinning to my noticeboard as reminders of the perils of slacking.

    • Work is good for us; indeed, it matters more than we think.
    • If somebody - an Exhibit A specimen such as me, say - has precisely nothing to do, day after day, they will not thrive.
      • I know that I know  that!
      • What have I been saying these past 32 months of pining and reclining?
    • Work gives us meaning, structure, social inclusion, relationships and, usually, a visible outcome or product we can be proud of.
    • It also gives us the money needed to buy the heat, light and food that we need to live - or in my case, booze, cigs and petrol for those nights out with non-existent co-workers celebrating non-existent weekends ... or week middles, or week beginnings, or any of those milestones that distinguish one day from another.

      It is entirely possible for someone to find purpose in life without resorting to gainful employment, but for most people, work is the best way of avoiding a life of thumb-twiddling.

      Hear bloody hear.

      After 2½ years' aimless twiddling, I simply would not recognise a "Life Purpose" - let alone know what use to which to put it or think of a single purpose it might serve.

    • Mais tiens! Even more depressing, "scientific evidence tells us that work is the best way to stay healthy, too."
      • Well, there go my chances for any remaining laughable 'Life'.
      • Might as well throw in the towel and go straight for the hosepipe over the Judas Tree, no passing Go, no pocketing the €20.
    • "There is more: unemployment, especially for periods of more than 12 weeks, increases the level of anxiety and depression."
    • "Worse, joblessness is associated with an increased risk of suicide."
      • And I thought it was just that infernal Treadmill of Futility, fuckin' gardening.

    Excellent timely article and I must keep up with Dr McCartney's 'lively discussion of the latest medical issues.'

    Also, in my case, somewhat depressing reading.

    24 January 2009

    Talking Car

    This is what blogs - mine, at least - should be about: short sharp reports, not the endless blatherings I dump in here.

    It is a dark and rainy night and no one wants to see me, too busy loving or shoving each other and my brand of vivacious company is past its sell-by date.

  • I go out to the DVD store in case Righteous Kill is available. All 5 copies are out and they have passed on Love Guru.
  • I decide to try the new Scondo supermarket just past Tzavros.
  • It is packed and I do not bother to find a place near the door.
  • I do a massive shop and go out to the Micra and load everything carefully into the boot/trunk.
  • It is dark but I do wonder about some of the objects scattered around, but then again Kostas often dumps stuff for the rubbish bins.
  • I talk to myself as I load them in, a habit I can't any more throw: "Gourmet cat food, lucky Koutsi ... sensible bread ... healthy fruit ... steaks that I will once again over cook ... etc etc
  • Finally it is all in and I muse aloud, "So, is that it? Because I'm not getting home and finding I've forgotten some crucial SNOOPS (stuff never out of permanent stock)
  • Pame! says a voice - Let's go!
  • For a split split split second I have the sort of thought that bypasses words and goes straight to the brain: Hello 'ullo, I *never* realised it was one of those cars that gauges the shopping list and tells you when it's all done and time to go home. Rather like that fridge of the future I read about that monitors SNOOPS and automatically places orders for anything running low.
  • From the front passenger seat a shape turns, a dumpy housewife type, and we lock gazes.
  • I have loaded the wrong car and this crone has sat there listening to me burble in English sans uttering a word.
  • I apologise and tell her 'lathos', error, and start removing the purchases in time for the owner to trundle his trolley over and give me a dark nod. I nod back and tell him, lathos. More nods as I go on unloading and move two cars down to my own wheels.
  • 23 January 2009

    So good they swore him in twice

    God, President Obama must have been furious with that flubbed oathing. Forever now a quiz question: which President of the United States was sworn in twice?

    I didn't watch too much of the ceremony; didn't want to keel over with inauguration fatigue.

    Went out to the various inaug parties - first in a long time i saw the gang deigning to speak to the American contingent on the isle. First, in fact, since i've seen so many merkans out n about.

    One excited Brit lady on the phone to home, "It's terribly exciting! I've been watching the election all night!"

    "Let me know who wins," I murmured as I eased by. "My money's on that Clinton minx."

    But I have been glued to the subsequent proceedings, BHO's Guantanamo signings and state dept appointments.

    Seeing someone behaving with such presidential presence makes me ill to think about all the preceding years of that gnome and his dishonest cohorts.

    I can't believe we put up with it for so long. I don't suppose there's a flicker of recognition from the previous regime that this is how it's done.

    Cheney in a wheelchair just about summed it all up.

    My pals in the US are posting almost hysterically joyful messages and of course everyone is sharing the post-mortem Youtube tsunami of Bush gaffes etc, which only makes me more miserable for the years squandered.

    Camelot Redux.

    21 January 2009


    That's the one!

    That's the bibliothèque I want.


    Perfect fit for the swimming pool annexe. Have Bates put in the necessary bid or whatever they do these days and ship it out sans delay.

    I need it ready for when Cost Centre #2 arrives in October.

    If U post it, they will comment: Lord Wells of this parish submits a link that beats my original.

    E-bay for Taxidermists, indeed: Lovely voice, measured delivery.

    Nice one, Ricardo.

    20 January 2009

    Posted by Picasa


    Capering capos! I thought I'd strummed along with most versions of this song, either in the Cousins or down the Troubadour or at those private gigs Tony Stratton Smith threw, but I do NOT recall Bert and/or John saddling up banjo and sitar for such a rendering

    There was one time (only) that Derroll Adams and I were hanging out in Poland Street and went to check out Bert on banjo ... other than that, this is a great track. And lawd do I remember when Bert had his hair that way. Was it Hamish or Les Bridger who hooted from the back of Les Cousins to have it trimmed? Davy went hush and said it was irrelevant but I remember lèse-majestically thinking they were right.

    18 January 2009

    Tzipora Malka

    ציפורה מלכּה "ציפי" לבני

    Don't know what it is but I find Mrs Tzipora Malka "Tzipi" Livni incredibly sexy, in the same way I used to be haunted by that Martha Stewart.

    Anyway, Tzipigate's got to be a better way to pass time than Golliwogs or HarryGate.

    Plus, didn't Tzipi and Likud do well in the elections?

    16 January 2009


    Time for me to cover the pool.

    I lay it out to hose down and dry.

    While Poseidon is away shopping in Dubai, Athena takes advantage of getting on my case and sends all manner of idiot pals of maman to just drop in.

    Today's is an 'exhibited artist' (and a poove, to boot), just over from Athens who rolls up and is not at all put off that I'm seul.

    I'm hauling out the pool cover to dry on the postage stamp grass, such as it is.

    "How interesting. You shield the lawn during the cold spell."


    Posted by Picasa


    I trim the tree outside my boudoir (the one with the severe haircut) and wrestle with the demon booze not to take refreshment.

    There is netting and scooping to be done to clean the pool which I do and then enter waist-deep to clear the rest of the grunge by which chill I might as well go all in and scrape the bottom with the abrasive brush.

    Brrr. Great feeling. Sam will come to the edge but refuses to join me in the arctic waters.

    When I get out I wrestle him over and use him as a towel which must have looked 'odd' to anyone with a telescope.

    Somewhere on Youtube is a room for the likes of me.

    As I get in the shower, phone. Eleni.

    "Wotcha been up to." I tell her.

    "OMG and I nearly just turned up.

    You making out with Sam on the lawn. That's all I needed to confirm my worst fears."

    'Best, surely?'

    "We will talk."

    So does that mean back to Missionary?

    "You disgust me"

    sam and calendar


    The excellent My Kerkyra monthly included a calendar this monthly, useless to me because of its non-existent space to write down my umpteen socialisings but perfect for a certain someone who stayed and made pals with Mister Sam and adored Scheria and took some wonderful photos with my crap camera which made me want to give it to her.

    I thought I'd offer to send it to her but needed her address so I concocted these irresistible photos to accompany my honey-tongued offer.

    She was the perfect guest: did all her homework before arriving, knew what she wanted to see, able to take herself off seule to explore, found all the right places, negotiated in her non-Greek the right boat trips and meals and shopping.

    Natch, Krippled Koutsi needed to get in on the act so she ambled up, much to Sambo's nervous bemusement.

    MK is my fave mag, altho' I am faithless and write for another, and I drive my 'literary' pals wild with my approval despite its endearing illiteracy and shameless plugs for any of the writers with services or products to flog.

    Iris DeMent 'Our Town'

    This is how I imagined the West but it wasn't 'til I met Zach Works that some of it came into focus.

    God Iris looks good here.

    15 January 2009


    Exactly what I need for my scribbling and bloggin' - good old creative juice like they harvest down scrumpy territory.

    This was sent to me by a pal who lives down SW England way - a film designed to promote the region and taking a bravely humorous slant.

    Ignore the flash Dubai advert to start with, which is what I thought she was talking about and failed to spot the humour.

    Wait for the crusty rustic who talks us thru the whole process of creative harvesting.

    14 January 2009

    Training Your Brain

    I don't know what DéBarclés bank has against my family that they goad us with such dismal service:

  • Maman in Lonthino spending like there was no yesteryear

    We had to cancel her credit card because of dodgy orders from Nederland and points west of Kosovo.

    As the card holder, only *she* could talk to the fraud dept.

    They assure her a new card will be sent and, yes, they can break the rules and mail it to London rather than the official card billing address in Scheria.

    Time goes by and no card: "These things take time" says maman, who is running short of the readies. 'No they dont,' I growl.

    I phone and of course they have to talk to her so I give the London number.

  • I call the matriarch back: she reports,perfectly nice rep but nothing done of course but they'll mail it today and - sorree - it has to go Greece. "Anyone there who can mail it on?"

    Grrr, as my children say.

    Other side of the coin:

  • Mater has spotted a book we all need, Training Yer Brain
  • I take details and order it online but natch meet probs, ordering it from Greece on card with Greek billing but want it to go to Eaton Plaza
  • There is a number that I call with no expectation of joy
  • I get the delightful and efficient 'Katy' who sees none of the probs to which I alert her and takes my details like a pro, which I deliver like a pro, having taken a few myself over the phone during my stint as a galley slave in the Good Ship Bezosia.
  • I compliment her on her pleasant delivery and instinct and wish there was some supervisorial contact address to which I could send a note of appreciation.
  • Oh but there is, simper blush thanks so much you really don't have to oh but I insist.
  • "Actually there's a way you can save a little more on this order, can I tell you about it?" But of course, yes do it, gosh you're good. Giggle blush.
  • Katy, You. Are. Good.

    Isn't it a shock and a relief to suddenly come across a flexible professional with a nice manner who knows her product?

  • I have added Bookshop Partnership to my favourites and will check and order first from them before looking elsewhere for needed self-help tomes.
  • Procrastination

    tassia mousaka creationThere is something skew-whiff about taking too long to buy a calendar.

    Every year it's the same: mid-November approaches and there is the note on the sub-standard calendar I ended up with last year, having failed to search on time.

    So all the decent ones are gone.

    Actually, there aren't any good ones, period, and one day I will clean up with a set of calendars that *deliver* the goods:

    • Big enough squares in which to fit more than two three-word appointments.
    • Phases of the moon (about which my mother is endlessly curious and observant and invariably gets it ever-so slightly wrong)
    • Local Saints' and public holidays.
      • Have you ever seen the expressions on your family when you've zoomed into town for a big ol' shopping spree - yee haw, no queues! - misled* by that damfool calendar of "I Like Insects more than You"?
      • I don't want to know about the 'rich, almost gaudy colors and striking patterns inherent in the Erotylidae family of pleasing fungus beetles.'
      • Nor that the "Systemae helicopter damselflies - with their ultraslow wing beat and completely silent flight - are almost spectral in their jungle habits of Central and South America."
    • I want to be alerted to: Clean Monday ~ Greek Independence Day ~ Labour Day ~ Aug 15th's Dormition of the BVM ~ Ochi Day.* ~ Last not least, St Spiridion Day.
    • And - please - no botanical pics. I'm bombarded with planty views from the moment I step outside. At least spare my eyeballs when I finally get refuge indoors from that infernal treadmill of futility.

    The problem is procrastination so I'm quite interested in Professor Piers Steel's Procrastination Equation: U=EV/ID.

  • 'U' stands for utility, or the desire to complete a given task.
  • It is equal to the product of E, the expectation of success, and V the value of completion, divided by the product of I, the immediacy of the task, and D, the personal sensitivity to delay.
  • According to Il Professore, procrastination is becoming a bigger deal because many more jobs are "self-structured", with people setting their own schedules.
  • This means we tend to postpone with delayed rewards in favour of activities that offer immediate rewards.(I'm quoting all this, of course).
  • 'Procastinators tend to live for today rather than tomorrow: short term gain for long term pain.
  • Famous procrastinators include Douglas Adams who said he loved the "whoosh" of missed deadlines passing over his head.

    Hari post-scripteroo: But I doubt that Brigadier General Ahmed 'Sooty' Raza-sharp Khan falls into the Hari Procrasters category: Sword of Honour, most successful overseas cadet, medals galore, top marks. Not a man to hang around or be caught hari nappers.

  • 12 January 2009


    paki gateThis space reserved for the huffing and puffing that will inevitably follow PakiGate (By Royal Appointment).

    I am also taking this opportunity to check with family members over the derivation of "harry/hari" + word:

    From my earliest days in Hong Kong, it was a family phrase - I think I heard it was 'of Indian descent' - to use 'hari' or 'harry' with certain words as a simple friendly prefix:

  • If one of us tracked down a missing item, we were dubbed Harry/hari finders
  • Cantonese for making love was 'park tor' so if we passed a misted vehicle in some lovers layby, we'd observe in unison 'Hari parkers'!
  • Too many pink gins: "Major Bentley-Marchant was definitely harry squiffers last night"
  • Not allowed out for a date? 'No need to get all hari sulkers about it.'

    It was so much part of our family vocab that neither my bro nor I queried it til years later when the origin was lost in the mists of.

    So along comes the apt if somewhat strained 'Hari Pakers' which is soo appropriate given the prince's name ...

    Given the pent-up hypocrisy in the land and the slimy ability of the News of the World to spin things out, this will have legs.

    Harry Leakers : But of course the video was 'leaked' of Prince Harry's amiable reference to his compact buddy. Good practice for all the 'senior defence force' leakages about the forthcoming 'internal army investigation'.

    Can't you see the reptiles rifling thru their contacts books? Scramble scramble.

    Harry 'Sooters' - So Prince Charles et famille call a pal "of Indian descent" (delicately put, sirrah), "Sooty". Excellent. AND Kolin 'Bob' 'Sooteh' Dhillon is into polo, neatly echoing my spoof on "Major General Ahmed 'Paki' Khan ... Damn'd fine fellah - terror on the polo field."

    This one hasn't stretched even one of its five legs.

    Harry Banters: The 'All We Are Saying is Give-Racism-the-Red-Card' brigade blunder into the fray.

    Zero Tollers. Ach! Not concentrating. Didn't mean to give "0-T" its own page but tack it onto the growing limb of P-Gate.

    Zero tollers: Some of the lingo floating around all this Harry-met-'Paki' brouhaha; wouldn't be surprised if a lot of it floated up into Pseuds Corner:

    • "Formally reprimanded"
    • Military ... zero-tolerance policy on racism
    • Air Commodore Ali 'Raza-sharp 'Paki' Khan having 'since revealed' that he has received an apology ... and now regards the matter as closed.
    • "A nickname which is usually very insulting, but I know he didn't mean it that way." No, he meant it exactly as a fond-ish nickname. If the intention was to insult, it would have been delivered accordingly.
    • General Sir Richard 'Dickie' Dannatt: "Disappointed and extremely crorss."
    • Senior Government official: the use of the term ... done "immense damage" to the Army's attempts at recruiting more people from the Asian community. I think not. Maybe put orff the wilting flowers that wouldna fitted in in the first place, but the sticks 'n' stones brigade would've kept their dhotis on and soldiered ahead - by golly, there's an old fashioned term one doesn't bump into very orften.
    • Same official: "The term 'Paki' is deeply abusive – it is not a term of endearment." Fellah obviously never done a stint in the Forces or been a new bug in a posh boarding prison.

    New Comment just in: :

    "Geoffrey Vickers, as a junior diplomat blah blah ... met Goering in 1938 yadda yadda ... observed etiquette but in other ways was - tactless, interruptive, unthinking about others ..."

    That's enough.

  • COMING ATTRACTION. Hari Sleuthers: Reptiles on the scent of the thief of the video.

    Hari Splitters: Nothing scandalous or racist. I just wanted to fit in a pic of this hot young gel. I've forgotten what euphemism 'party-loving' is in Fleet Streetese - something like 'enjoys a drink ... not averse to fooling around ... so forth.' You know, like 'confirmed bachelor' 'ebullient man about town', 'debs delight', speaking of which I saw that 'Dirty' Dai Llewellyn popped this mortal coil, seducer of debs, brother of Roddy consort of Princess Margaret. I saw him once at some posh club I'd been taken to - he looked a lot of fun and of course the women draped around him were Grade A Belgravia Prime.

    Diverse among equals: Normally I sulk if someone comes up with something I was planning to post - as Sinbad did with this latest on HakiGate - but I've just been outside to feed our lazarus no-longer-lame Koutsi and to my huge relief I actually saw the ginger tom that's been hanging around sent literally flying by hitherto somnolent Sambo.

    We've often wondered about soppy Sambo, if he'd be any use in an emergency, and tonight set my mind at rest:

    I'd taken Koutsi's food out to set by the kitchen door, seen the ginger and was about to clap my hands in ineffectual 'shoo!' when out of nowhere came this lightning streak of velvet, just a hint of killer growl, grabbed the tom and tossed it in the air like a corrida bull with one of those foolhardy dare-devils.

    Wonderful sight and I applauded him and made straight for his treat plate of bones as he disappeared into the night in baskervillainous pursuit. Good boy !

    So golli-gosh, back to PakiGate and my notes from earlier:

    Prince Harry to be sent on a 'diversity' course, ho hum what a farce.

    Sorry, an equality  and diversity training course.

    I feel like Glenda Slagg: do me a ragheaded favour.

    "Like all recruits, Harry was given an initial diversity course lasting a few hours, but commanders have ordered him to brush up his racial awareness."

    Brush up, eh? Tar brush up, more like, and if that's not going to send someone with any impatience with this sort of crap further down the path of unawareness, I don't know what will.

    Thank gawd I didn't encounter this sort of nonsense when *I* was growing up oop t' Fragrant Harbour or being ragheaded around the changing rooms of costly Brit schooling.

    Harry is required to wince and groan and keep a straight face through "Fairly standard stuff about making people aware of being sensitive about what they say."

    What on earth does 'fairly standard' mean? Standardly standard?

    The powers-that-be blather on about it being no big deal, "normal army disciplinary procedures", blah blah, but the only twerps making anything AB-normal about this storm in a Darjeeling cuppa is the MoD itself on the run from the slimey 4th Estate.

    Here's CBC News' take on this wogging farce, just to rub in what a load of codswallop this all is.

    More anon, you can be sure.



    Oh for God's sake, if a chap can't take a bit of rag-heading while he's a cadet, lawd help him when he gets out and plays grown-ups.

    Mr Mohammad 'Paki' Yaqoob Khan d'Abassi should keep his trap shut and know better than to abase himself butting in to help out fils Lieutenant Ahmed 'Paki' Raza Khan.

    The video's three years old, and Prince Harry is facing disciplinary action? And this is the modern Sandhurst, turning out babies who can't take a bit of joshing?

    I trust that 'Paki' Raza (as we fondly refer to him in the junior mess) carries the distinctive handle for the rest of his days:

    "I say, who's that rather distinguished looking ... erm ... tanned gent talking to Lady Maureen?"

    The Paki?

    "Well, yes, since you put it that way."

    That's Major General Ahmed 'Paki' Khan.

    "Ohhh, the chap who-?"

    The very one. Damn'd fine fellah - terror on the polo field. Come on over, I'll introduce you ... Pakkers old boy, like you to meet an old golfing chum of mine.

    And so forth.

    Here's the culprit video, hawked by a worm to the disgusting NoW. Notice how politely fluently Harry troubles to pronounce 'Paki' Accchhhmed's name - and how rude he is about the RSM's orders.

  • Cant and Moral High Ground: The always forthright Iain Martin speaks for England.
  • 11 January 2009


    I knew it was going to be a good day the moment I sat up in bed and saw Sam padding purposefully past my patio

    [That's it - alliteration or religion, you're not having both - Ed]

    in the direction of the toolshed. There is only one man that Sam tails from the moment his car turns into our approach road half a K away to when he leaves: Kostas our Albanian handiman.

    Sam follows him around barking and circling which is dead embarrassing because K has been working here for 3 years and it's time Sam settled down, particularly since his divine Tassia has never invited a single growl.

    Everyone else - Mister Burglar, Mister Rapist, Mt Arsonist, Club Bore, the vicar, name the villain - they swan up to not a flicker from Sam. This must irk the heck out of Kostas because he is a tricky cove who 'borrows' tools and forgets he's done so.

    I can be in the Seven Sleepers and Sam's barking rouses me and I go straight to the tools and there's Mr K lugging away my chain saw or ladder or best clippers. I make a big show of noting it in my red "Kitty" exercise book with date 'n' all, not one bit to K's liking.

    LOL - once (before I arrived) he went up to mother, "What you done with my pickaxe?" This is a whacking great thing that none of the suitors could have wielded, gnarled handle, axe head floating at the end in danger of flying off at any moment. Mum just burst out laughing and asked what on earth did he think she'd do with it?

    So I gave Sam a big cuddle and extra brek and praised him in front of Kosta and then went to *my* hefty petit dé- before suiting up for church.

    I don't do religion any more after those schools but I drive Mum in and then louche off to have coffee with the boys at the 'Friends' caff. But today was different because our locum, the excellent Canon John Philpott and his quietly observant wife, Margaret, leave next week for the UK and will be sorely missed.

    John is a true man of God with natural authority and Grace and THE most hypnotic sonorous voice.

    So I enter and sit in a corner by the plaque raised by Count Metaxa to his wife, and enjoy the raised eyebrows at my presence.

    Everything goes wrong: John has to point out the altar candles haven't been lit, when it comes the Lessons, once again - like the time before and the time before that - the readers seem to be taken completely by surprise and fumble their way thru the text that they gaze upon as if for the first time which it is probably is.

    When mum reads the lesson I type it out after which she insists on a run thru so that I can advise or we can look up pronunciations.

    Solidaritily, I attend when She's reading and when we get there, I remind the warden that she is inaudible and has no idea about microphones so if they don't get it right, *I* will interrupt after the 2nd verse, "No good Mama, can't hear a bally word ...", barge forward from the back row and adjust it at my leisure, to the titters of all.

    When *I* used to read ... oh boy the rehearsals and the timing and the pregnant pauses ... and I'd gear up my Darth Vader-meets-Larry Olivier voice. At the end, I'd look up and around at all the dropped gazes as I fixed them righteous basilisk glare ... *THIS*, I'd rumble, "is the word of the Lord."

    I love showbiz.

    So the readers didnt get it right, then it was the central heating which is way up at the ceiling operated by a remote.

    Suddenly the rotund P is waddling up and down the aisle, click click click, I can't tell the difference or the need, click click click, it's totally distracting us from the prayers ... click click click. Some are beginning to giggle, Dorothy comes over and offers to help ... no, i can do it ... click click ....

    The 'Peace': God bless Canon Philpott for doing away with this most cringe-making aspect - save for this Sunday.

    And it's not just me. The clever and literate Quentin Letts (goad goad of Sinbad) nails it in his essay on the appalling Graham Kendrick:

    "And yet here are the happy clappies insisting they bang a tambourine, just as they insist that the inner spell of adult supplication be ruptured in their communion services in order to shake hands or kiss neighbours at the 'sign of the peace'."

    I am sitting by Margaret and we soberly shake hands - she and John know our feelings about this love-in farce - but everyone is everywhere as usual, breasting thru to slobber and maul me, like cats who make a beeline for the allergic ones who cannot stand them.

    Collection: This is taken during the third hymn and the collectors usually start their rounds at the 3rd verse. We reach the verse, no one has moved because they've cocked it up again and failed to agree whose turn it is. A flicker of annoyance in John's impassive expression.

    Suddenly, from no one collecting, everyone is doing it, tugging at the two collection bags - mine, no mine, I'll do it, no that's OK I'll do it.

    We're eating into the hymn and sure enough, it ends, John is waiting there to receive the bounty and theyre still working the aisles.

    I decide this s good cabaret and should come more often.

    Service ends and we retire to the library for coffee and chatter. Everyone wants to know how maman is and are shocked that I dont know, 'til i tell them she's in London.

    The resident Anorak button holes me and his face is red with rage at what's going on with the USA and Israel. I know why he's picking on me: because of my stay in the US he still thinks I'm American. When the vice consulate had their Xmas party he came over and whispered, "You're a token Brit today, are you?"

    He blasts away and I apologise for not being 'up' on the USA congress scene."

    Well you should be - it's your country.

    I tell him, Nooo, I'm British. He says I thought you were American. I tell him Nooo, can't he tell by my accent? He looks cheated.

    There're the usual shymaking speeches and presentation of a rather good book of photos of the isle and more speeches followed by hugs and kisses, on both, which I know they are uncomfortable with.

    I warn the wonderful Margaret, with whom I have always been on formal but fond terms:

    "Be warned, when I take my parting I will definitely plant a kiss on both cheeks. You, John, I will NOT be smooching, downie tho' you may be."

    "Ah, so I needn't turn the other cheek." We laugh. I will miss them so.

    There is the ceremony of handing over the keys etc and I say "So the vicar's parking space will be free?" Laughter.

    It is a space by the church that is ringed off but that doesn't deter the locals. Once when the previous chaplain was away I was driving with a suitably bearded local of papas mien.

    We arrived just as a local was moving the posts to park there himself.

    I didnt understand what went on at the time but my pal translated after: "He is the papas?" He is not the papas, he is the visiting bishop and I am his rural dean.

    Hurried apologies and he removes himself with many a verbal genuflection to me ('Look holy. I tell him you are the visitor archbishop from Westminster Monastery')

    Farewells fared, I take off and it is the most glorious day and I drive with China Forbes crooning and a lightness of heart that does not come often to any of us.

    Hurt myself today

    Rummaging thru suitcases in the attic, came across a strongly wrapped bundle, got teary.

    Had to walk round the garden with muted Sam as I sobbed.

    When me 'n' Steph decided it was divorce she said "OK, you tell the girls."

    Anna was what 9? I collected her from school and we drove home and she was so excited, made a flute out of some wood, painted it gold.

    "Listen dad, I can make a sound."

    I sat there in the car. When is a good time? I told her.

    Tears sprang to her eyes, then she got out and walked straight-back into the house.

    When I went in she was sobbing in her room, this a woman who doesn't cry: rant rage kick the furniture about but no tears. I didnt go up.

    I hung that 'flute' on the wall of the place I moved to. She'd see it there: "Dad, what's that doing there?" I told her it would always be with me wherever I went.

    She didnt remember that day and would ask me with fascination, "So how was I?"

    Sweetie you were magnificent.

    Recollected in tranquility. I gazed at the crude piece of driftwood in my hands, its gold paint hastily applied, and it held everything I couldnt say.

    I took it downstairs and placed it pride of place on my bedroom wall, where the musket or Monarch of the Glen should have hung.

    So much good love turned aside and lost.

    10 January 2009


    Out of the blue, a cheque for a batch of stories I'd had published under various nom plumages and handled by an agent pal sworn to secrecy.

    It's a vanity: many of the selecting editors are pals (of varying intensity) from my book days and I have this cock-eyed belief that they will accept or reject accordingly.

    Also, my most successful coups are under womanly names - whatever that tells you about me; I've stopped trying to figure - and I *know* from my publishing days this played a huge factor and we were very sulky when he/she turned out to be the other.

    I took a fistful of notes to my local camera expert and said i was fed up with feeding my current toy with fresh batteries every half hour - give me something proper.

    So he suggested the Coolpix 14.5 and ordered an English manual from Athens.

    I still haven't read the whole thing and I'm sure am under-using it like I still only use a fraction of Excel, but it works very nicely.

    I'd gone out with the guitar to a new bar, found it impossible to strum on tsi-tsi birra alone when all about me were swaying on goblets of Wild Grouse.

    So I came back and took Sam for a minuit jaunt which he loves, loves. Makes him feel like a hunter and also he has this game of stalking me - running off to leave me padding thru the undergrowth by torchlight, then leaping out with barks and growls:

    "See? See? You coulda been an Albanian intruder - I'd've had your arm off, canines embedded in yer wedding tackle ... don't pretend. You had no idea I was tracking you. Merged with night in my black velveteen Bat Dog schmutter. Followed you by stealth. Very big on stealth, I am. "

    Me: Don't DO that! [canine giggle and tale wag] - God u scared me [grunt of joy as I fondle him] ... dude, almost had a heart attack.

    GOOD boy ! Very good boy. That's why we sleep so sound at night, knowing you're there on the battlements ..."

    Wag grunt paw snuffle: "I know I know. You guys couldn't handle the truth."

    Cut to the chaise longue, I noticed the moon and went get my camera which was lousy on the flash so I turned it off and got these lovely shots. Lovely for me.

    Somehow, sans any light but the moon's, I got the plantery in (top pic; there's another but I goffed and didn't include it) which looks as if painted on canvas.

    I sometimes wonder if I don't post just for the more excellent comments, many of which I don't publish because they are badly crafted abuse, or they are intimate communications from people I'll never meet.

    Others are gems such as BadAss Sinbad's or the impeccably tasted Wells sahib with his precise choice of music.

    09 January 2009


    So it's a 'Tassia Day' and she'd cleaned and cooked and cosseted ...


  • Actually, I *wish*. She is a very cute lady.
  • Looks 19 but is a mother of two, one of whom is a huge strapping lad who, I gather, could converse with me in Greek, English, German and Russian. Oh, and also his native Albanian. Clever me to know all those languages, yeh?
  • Seriously, that is what industry gets you: Kostas is yer basic skilled builder, gardener, tree trimmer, Rembrandt of the chainsaw, blah blah. He's building an enormous house with a killer view that maybe one day he'll hire *me* to come and clean.
  • He sends his sons to school and drives them hard so that one day they will have posh jobs and wear suits and ties and drink martinis and watch the sun rise. One generation.
  • One day they'll bring a classy chick home and it'll be like "Dad, I'm bringing this really nice girl for dinner so - please - look decent and mom, don't let dad just hand her a gallon of tsiporo in a tooth mug. She comes from a really nice home." ("And your father and I haven't made a nice home for you? Children! They break your heart. Oy veh! " Or the Albanian equivalent)
  • Yes, Tassia is a hottie and I drive her back home each time and over the years I've not surprisingly been spotted by envious pals.
  • "God you're a dark horse. You stand around pretending to be spurned by one and all, but I've seen you. C'mon, who is she? She's never at any of the parties and don't tell me she's from the wilds of Wiltshire because that is a local chick and your Greek should be a lot more fluent.

    Right, back to the story.

    So I've delivered her home and we've wished each other 'good weekend' and I'm driving back and as I pass Diellas supermarché ('Smelly deli' as it's dubbed by the local expat Waitrosicrucians) I see her younger boy trudging the 2 kilometres back.

    I honk and wave and slow down and he comes right over and gets in the back with a grunted "Yassas", and I U-turn under the wheels of a juggernaut and head back home, making polite convo but getting only grunts in reply so I concentrate on finding a cool radio station.

    So we're driving along and I look in the mirror and suddenly it occurs to me that he doesn't look all that *like* the fruit of T's loins. All crewcut kids look the same to me ...

    So I ask, 'Loipon, you *are* Tassia's son?' 'Nai. Yes' 'Her younger son, nai?' (Actually that should be 'nai;' because the Greek ? is a ;)

    'Isos. Perhaps.'


    I don't know the family name so I'm going 'Son of Tassia? Wife of Kosta? I mean not YOU - Tassia the wife of Kosta, you the grandson of Vassilis ...' I'm beginning to sound like a New Testament family tree of who begat whom.

    'Ochi. No.'

    Leaping Leonidas! I slow down.

    'He is my friend. Same school.'

    I stop.

    'So where do you live?'


    'Would like to tell me where ... so I can drive you home?'

    'Is near. Proceed. I will show.'

    We pass the turning for the Kostas/Anastasia spread and he tells me where to turn and we go on a bit and then we go down a dirt track to a hovel and the mother comes out to see who it is because her darling isn't due back for a while, it being a 3K trot.

    He gets out without a word, she waves at me and I wave back and reverse and go back home.

    But ... splutter, shake of head, mop of brow ... like duuude!, as My Lord Edgeworth taught me to pronounce ... double dude, indeed.

    Where I've come from, even slow down to check out a young lad will have a flashing blue light in your mirror; wave at him, that's 2 to 5 and better not retrieve the soap in the shower, you pervert.

    I'm still shaking: having an unknown lad actually get into your car? I'd have to become someone's bitch mighty fast to stay remotely alive in the clink.

    Whoa! When Tass' comes again next Tuesday, she will no doubt have heard of the nice xenos and I will have a stern word with her about little boys accepting rides from strangers.

  • Tables and Mice

    Here in outer Scheria, my Purple Heart as an early Amazon foot soldier misleads less techie folk into treating me as a one-eyed king of the keyboard. I do not disabuse them.

    A common question: "Master, is the plural 'mice' or 'mouses'?"

    I look grave, nod and stroke my beard.

    'Good question, grasshopper. When you are ready for the answer, I will let you know. Meanwhile, use 'mouse plural' to get around it ... but I suspect it is 'mouses' to distinguish them from the scurrying furry kind so conveniently used by the ladies to leap shrieking onto stools or throw their helpless selves into our arms.'

    Well, gosh - I wuz wrong.

    Here in the newspaper I no longer read, the write-up on Windows 7 spells it out: mice.

    Other points on which I shall no doubt pontificate:

  • If "Microsoft is aiming for Windows 7 to be able to interpret inputs from human fingers" then it ain't for people like me who seem incapable of maintaining a clean screen even by using a wireless keyboard with the laptop 18" away. I'm sorry, 45.72 centimeters.

    I can't stand a smudgy screen but I make it worse by using THE most unsuitable tissues to wipe the screen with even less suitable household sprays.

  • 'Table-sized computer'?? I'm typing this on a table of modest proportions which would still accommodate six laptops each with their own cordless keyboard. The idea of a single computer taking up that sort of real estate makes me think of those clips of 'puters of old - nerdy looking chaps in white coats and pencil holders solemnly reading output from hermetically sealed behemoths.

    Steve Ballmer: Every time I see mention of 'Wild Man' Ballmer I have to smile. I worked very briefly for Microsoft's PR company 'of record' (whatever that means) and I think there were only two managers licensed to be in the same room as SB.

    It was as if he was some highly unpredictable and dangerous animal - well, no 'as if'; word had it he was - and encounters with the press would set us all in a tizzy trying to anticipate what could go wrong that would attract more ink than the technology we were promoting.

    It always amused me that I was allowed minor briefing roles in the presence of Bill Gates but that it was generally felt that my British accent might not go down so well with Stevie B. I could have put their minds at rest.

    One day on campus I went to have a pee and in walked Ballmer. Blimey, I almost halted mid-stream and bolted, so brainwashed was I by that time.

    "Yo! What've you got for us today?" he asked amiably.

    "Me, I've got ten minutes max on the Visual FoxPro 5 beta."

    "Listen, man - read my lips. You don't need 10 minutes. Ten seconds is all ... listen to me: Fuckin'. Awesome. Got that?"

    I gave a polite snort of humour and made to leave.

    "Hey, man - I like the accent."

  • Vidalia

    I let slip about a PR gaffe with the great Gore Vidal and my sharpest commenter goes "Oh do tell."

    Fair 'nuff.

    It was back in my book publicist days and must have been in the mid 1970s because that's when I was involved with Heinemann PR hackery.

    I can't remember the exact title involved and it doesn't matter because Gore was Gore and everyone wanted to interview him and to hell with what he'd actually written. The ideal author to plug: lie back, think of England, and choose which media to favour.

    So there we were in the Heinemann boardroom, Charles Pick, Nigel, Tim et al dancing attendance, beautiful editorial gels keeping our glasses freshed as the great man regaled us with that day's publicity grilling.

    Some prefect offered toadily that "Gosh, Gore, you were a real trouper ... they were all over you." to which GV replied in his patrician tones, "And they certainly got their pound of flesh." Laughter.

    Up chirps Holmes, "Now you know how the Queen feels."

    Now why did I say that? I was young, I wanted to inject a reminder that the PR drudge had just a leetle say in the various press coups over which we were slapping each other on the back.

    But 'how the queen feels'??

    Dead silence. Then Gore, with whom I'd built a good relationship as I hawked him up 'n' down the country ... he looks round, sensing his moment to kill:

    "Yes indeed. [Killer pause]. I just wonder if Christopher is really cut out for public relations."

    Laughter breaks the tension, I blush and stammer "What I meant ..."

    'Dear boy, we *know* what you meant.'

    But it's ok because the fatted sacrificial lamb had been de-throated and the managers are safe.

    Later by the drinks table, his voice in my ear, "Did I crucify you back there"

    "Mr Vidal, to be 'crucified' by you is tantamount to being canonised by any mere mortal author."

    "Mister, is it now? That'll teach me to pick on the one man in this room who's made all this mahvelous publicity possible.

    Yes, Charles, with you in a moment. I'm just checking with Christopher that you're treating him nicely and that he'll stay put for my next book." Strained smiles.

    08 January 2009


    SO F****NG ALONE

  • I love Tripod. They have impish humour.
  • Their Air Guitar nails the whole ridiculous cavortings.
  • I admit - I too have never won a prize for playing 'real' guitar
  • Do hang on til the end where a brilliant air guitar session takes place with a magician of the mic pulling off real screeching guitar sounds.
  • Let the Mystery Be

    It was the piratical Zach Works who introduced me to Iris DeMent.

    Well, not personally: Zach was performing noble QA in India - doing overtimer for the same pay - and I was mooching around our office in PacMed and saw this CD and decided to borrow it.

    Of course, I ripped after hearing the first track.

    I loved the Mystery Being track and even tried to learn it for my own strummings at Seabold but my voice wasn't right.

    Now I come across an equally catchy version by David Byrnes:

  • Iris

  • Byrnes and the 10,000 Maniacs.
  • Death by Roobish

    OK, maybe I will do a smidgeon of housekeeping while maman's away:

  • Old geezer lets the rubbish build up until he has to make tunnels to get around his fragrant abode.
  • One day he loses his way in this labyrinth and dies of dehydration or whatever one does in such bizarre circumstances.
    I would hope also from starvation but qui sait with all that good rotting fibre to hand and nutritious detritus dripping from the walls.
  • Because of stench, police had to call in a diving team to first enter the house. Now that I would have enjoyed watching from behind my Acacia Drive lace curtains.

    "Ee, coom quick, Mrs Barraclough - it's our Tony walking oop t'drive of number 12, you know, the quare fellah.

    Aye, luv, but not in mask and tank and them flippers he uses down t'harbour."

  • This one hurts: a 1950s car just sitting there ... tragedy.

    How did Quentin Crisp have it?: No need bother with housework because, after the first 4 years, it doesnt get any dirtier.

    I must say, the day I lunched chez lui it all looked spic n span so maybe he was teasing.

    Rubbish Celebrities: But the funniest cruelest juxtaposition is the darkie fellah to the right, seeming to be eyeing the article, and promoting 'rubbish' celebrities.

    What's the betting there'll be a switcheroo within 24 hrs?

    But bravo that witty sub-ed.