Wednesday, August 26, 2015


When I first started gardening on Crete I tried growing all the usuals like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, salads and various fruits including grapes. I’ve since discovered that cucumbers tomatoes and peppers are so cheap it’s better to buy them and that grapes over my pergola just get annihilated by the wind and leave a mess over my terrace.

I tried various seeds bought in UK garden centres and had some successes and some failures. But always the best was to collect seeds and cuttings here and use them. 

One day while walking through a small village called Vori I saw, growing in a pot, a large chilli bush, a shrub really. I collected some of the fallen chillies and planted their seeds. Someone also gave me a branch from another chilli bush that produced small hot chillies that go through and amazing colour transformation, from green to yellow, to purple then orange then read. It looked like a Christmas decoration. I started growing these too.

In my first year of growing both varieties I got a large crop of chillies — much more than I could possibly use in a con carne. Being brought up not to waste things I searched out recipes for sweet chilli sauce, which I do like. In the end I put together my own recipe and it has been a success. Others here on Crete use it, including some Greeks.

If you’re interested, here it is: two mugs of vinegar, two of sugar, one whole bulb of garlic and half a kilo of chillies. Put through a food processor but don’t chop too fine, boil in a saucepan adding cornflour to thicken, and then pour into hot jars and seal.

I found that I was more interested then in growing chillies than any other plant and this year did some buying over the internet — getting many different varieties of chilli seeds. From memory I have habanero, fresno, rococo yellow, capsicum, tabasco, jalapeƱo, scotch bonnet, Bhut something or other and many more besides. Disappointingly many did not germinate but, still, that would have been about 300 plants. Those that did grow you see here. I am now collecting my first crops and soon it will be time to make chilli sauce! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Catching Up Yet Again *Sigh*

Sorry if I'm repeating myself here but I don't want to check back. It is time to write and move on...

Yet again I have been lax about writing blog posts, and that must change. I could make the excuse that it’s because I have been so busy I just could not spare the time but that would be bullshit. The reality is that I’ve had plenty of time at a laptop or my ipad and spent most of it on Twitter or Facebook. They are so easy; too easy.

So, where am I? I’ve been lazy still — on the writing front. All I have done this Summer is a scattering of interviews, some editing work, and made a few desultory attempts at starting a book. This is going to change. I’m thinking now that I need to get out of the box once again. I started a follow-up (maybe trilogy) to the Owner books. This was to be based on the short story I published called Owner Space. It was to be first contact Owner style. But no — maybe later. I think that what I need to do now is get seriously weird, let myself go, like I did when I wrote The Skinner. More on this when I get started…

But it is not like I’ve spent this Summer just sitting on my arse posting on Face Book. I’ve been continuing to fight a psychological battle mainly by pushing myself physically. Many of those who have suffered depression and fought it off will be aware that one of the best weapons in your armoury is exercise. Get out for a walk, run, swim, lift some weights… I started walking the day after Caroline’s cremation and since then my mileage must be up in the thousands. Here on Crete that activity is much more pleasant than in Essex (obviously) and until maybe a month ago I was doing plenty of walks in the mountains.

However, as the Summer progresses the activity becomes a bit less pleasant when you have to carry a cloth with you to wipe the sweat out of your eyes. At this point things had opened up in my local seaside town of Makrigialos and I displaced walking with kayaking and swimming. The result is that I am now the lightest and fittest I have been in 25 years at under 12 stone (75 kilos) and don’t have a scrap of fat remaining.

So, now I must aim to get my mind straight and start applying it. I have some editing yet to do on War Factory (the next Transformation book after Dark Intelligence) then … yes … it is time to open a new document and stare at a blank page until something happens.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Kinda Catching Up...

As the result of various computer problems, and a tendency to take the easier route of sticking stuff up on Facebook, I haven't posted much here about my return to Crete this year.

Okay, I came back on April 5th to find my garden in it's usual parlous state. This has never been a problem to me because I always look forward to the chance to get on with doing some stuff outside.

The weather, as I noted in a previous post, wasn't that great back then and I ran my stove for longer than usual. That same weather was of course a lot better than in Britain and didn't much prevent me getting into my usual routine of mountain walks. I also took up the mantle of 'personal trainer' for my next-door neighbour Anna, who last year was teaching me Greek. She's been walking with me three times a week and gradually extending her range. Note the first picture here those who read this blog lasts year. This was one of the areas burned down to the soil last July (I think).

By May I there was no more need to wear jeans while walking, though they went on in the evenings. I was also ready to exact my revenge on my brother Bob and his wife Christine. They came out here 7 years ago with the strange idea that Caroline and I had been walking lots in the mountains and were very fit. They'd trained themselves up for some walking. Meanwhile Caroline and I had been training with carafes of wine and cigarettes down in the bars of Makrigialos. One walk we went on with them left me so knackered I collapsed on a sofa and fell asleep directly afterwards. Anyway, we walked most days of their holiday here and, annoyingly, they did fine.

Later, because Christine had read the book The Island by Victoria Hislop, we took a trip to said island of Spinalunga.

I took my kayak out just a few times in April, but my trips in it steadily increased throughout May. I did, at one point, take out a waterproof camera but, unfortunately, it wasn't proof against the shaking of the kayak and most of the pictures I took were blurred. Disappointing.

Those of you reading this because it is the blog of an SF writer I am afraid I have to disappoint. I'm not back on that horse yet. Things have, however, taken a very interesting turn in that area, but I am not yet at liberty to talk about that...  

The Lazarus War - Jamie Sawyer

So, we've got a hostile race of alien biomechs somewhat in the mould of H R Giger aliens. They're pretty much intent on exterminating the human race though currently a shaky truce is in place. Humanity is divided into the good guys and the Directorate, so let's toss in some terrorism, subterfuge and traitors. We also have starships sporting particle beam weapons, railguns the size of skyscrapers, laser batteries, missiles... And then there are the uber-human super-soldiers clad in powered armour and wielding plasma weapons... Is that enough for you? Okay, beyond all the above loveliness the characters engage and there's a good story here with the action ramping up all the way.

This, dear readers, is the good stuff. Recommended. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Retail Therapy.

My last post on here was about the last straw with my old laptop. Dying its death of a thousand cuts transpired that any time I tried to open something my next move would be to go away and make a cup of tea, or mop the floor, or paint the Forth Bridge. And still I would often return, do something further, and find myself watching the little blue circle of death turning on the screen. In that blog post I spent the best part of a morning trying to load some pictures, and finally gave up.

If I hadn’t had an Ipad to hand I might have thought this was all due to a slow internet connection, but no, on the Ipad it doesn’t take a Bank Holiday to open Facebook, and loading pictures takes just a few seconds. Yes, I have no doubt that my brother’s imminent clean-out of the laptop will result in good things but still, retail therapy time and, fuck it, a new laptop is tax deductible.

I’ve read many times that Apple computers are just faster, with a better operating system and simply easier to use. This has proved out with the iPad and, while I was moaning about my old laptop, someone on Facebook suggested the Macbook Pro. I took the plunge and my brother brought me one when he came out here on holiday a week ago.

I’m slowly getting used to this new toy. I was worried about not having Microsoft Word, but Pages isn’t much different and is easy to use. It’s not as if I will be doing anything complicated with it — just words and stuff. The operating system is taking a bit of getting used to and it’s asking me things concerning iCloud that I’m clueless about. But oh my, the thing is damned fast, pretty and sleek, and I just know I did the right thing buying it.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

April Showers?

It’s been a while since I posted a blog on here so time for some catching up. Here’s one I wrote but didn’t post back at the start of April:

Yesterday afternoon, while during a rest from gardening I sat under the tin roof of the kazani drinking a cup of tea and chatting with my neighbour, Anna, the sky darkened and a downpour arrived. After a while, I went inside, lit up my stove and lost myself in Simon Scarrow’s The Eagle’s Prey. A little later, I had to close the window shutters and turn on the lights. Such is the design of the windows to fit the 2 feet thick walls of this house – the shutters opening outwards and the windows opening inwards – that rain blown against the windows quickly works its way through and runs down the walls inside the house.

The downpour continued all afternoon and throughout the night. This morning, during a pause, I went outside to gather some more wood from my meagre supply, hoping to get it dry so I could light the fire again. As I tossed the faggots of olive wood into a beer crate it started raining again, heavily, and I thought I would get soaked. After a moment it then impinged that I wasn’t getting wet. This was because the rain was bouncing off me.

Only as I got back inside did I remember that the sound of the rain against the shutters throughout the night had often been a clattering rattle. I put my tardiness in realising that a lot of that rain had been hail down to still being thoroughly knackered from the 10 hours of gardening I had done the day before the downpour started.

Last year Anna told me that she likes the sound of the rain, that it is ‘romantic’. My response was typically British. This year Anna tells me she will never call the sound of the rain romantic again. Even the Greeks are sick of it now – the rain, hail and snow that has been hitting them all Winter.

Meanwhile I need to buy another expensive load of olive wood to keep this place warm.

I will shortly attempt to include pictures with this post, but haven't been having much success...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Books at Last...

Ooh, sunshine outside! If it doesn’t cloud over and start pissing down again I can get out for a walk. This weekend has been a write-off in that respect – windy and wet on Saturday and the same on Sunday but with a triple helping of the wet. I also didn’t get into the weight-training much and succumbed to the need for calories. I drove up to a local shop and there bought hobnobs, Tuc, chocolate honeycomb and chilli-rice crackers. I ate one packet each of the biscuits, a pack of the honeycomb and two packs of the crackers on top of my usual meat, veg and fruit. The result of this was a weight climb (the body retaining water for digestion).

However, I’m not disappointed with myself. I felt quite knackered and it was one of those ‘the body demands’ times. It’s interesting that on the two occasions over the last month or so when I’ve stopped exercising for a couple of days and eaten what I’ve wanted there have been visible changes to my physique. This morning my weight is up compared to the average over the last two weeks, but more fat has disappeared around my midriff and elsewhere my musculature is more defined. But I’m also happy about something else: books!

During the events leading up to Caroline’s death in January last year I lost any urge to write fiction or to read it. Shortly after her death I only wanted to watch DVDs or play spider solitaire and subsequently my interest in the DVDs waned. As I’ve mentioned before it’s as if the part of my brain that extracts pleasure from fiction shut down. But over the last few months I’ve got back into enjoying the DVDs and over this last week, after pushing myself, I’ve read and enjoyed 3 books – two from the series above. This isn’t much to all you readers, but it’s more than I’ve read over the preceding year.

Now hoping that another push will return to me my writing mojo.