Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Technician Rising.

Julie Crisp at Macmillan is rather pleased. Here's a sample from a recent email:

Here's some rather good news for you. THE TECHNICIAN has racked up an amazing 799 copies of sales in hardback in its first week. This places it at number 24 in the Bookscan charts! This is a terrific start and just goes to show how the popularity of your novels is on the rise. Hurrah!

The Gabble -- New Cover.

Well, Mr Sullivan has bin and gone and done it again! Wow!

Smoke from the Ears!

Wednesday 25th

I would say it’s a certainty that I’m going to end up with a sack load of chillies here. Previously I’ve preserved them in olive oil or vinegar, but find they tend to lose their kick that way. This year I’ve decided I’ll dry a load, and turn the rest into something we tend to use quite a lot of: sweet chilli sauce. Has anyone out there done this? After reading various recipes on the Internet I’m inclined to a big saucepan into which will go a pint of vinegar plus a pint of sugar, one whole bulb of garlick then chopped up chillies right to the brim, boiling then bottling...

Monday 30th

Well, a test run using honey instead of sugar (we were given a jar here and simply don’t use it) seems to have worked. Now I have to buy some vinegar and sugar and just wait until I’ve got at least half a bucketload of chillies. At present rates of ripening that should be in about a couple of weeks.

Other projects on the go: I’ve cut from the tobacco plants a collection of leaves that were damaged by the wind and am drying them. The problem is that they dry out rather quickly here and so remain green. Perhaps I need to somehow slow down the drying process. Then again, they’re ‘green’ so they must be good for me.

The beach is now starting to empty. Most of the holidaymakers in the small apartment blocks in Makrigialos are Greeks, usually over from the mainland, with just a scattering of other nationalities. The big hotels at the end of the place, the Micropoli and the Sun Wing, are mostly occupied by Scandinavians – and yes very many of them seem to be blonde. It’s something we are supposed to ignore in this politically correct world, but national traits are much in evidence here. If you see someone running along the beach with one of those strap-on heart monitors around his chest, or cycling vigorously up a hill in temperatures above 30, you can generally guarantee he’s German. Tall women with blonde hair down to their perfectly formed arses are generally Scandinavian whilst the big blonde square-jawed men who look capable of snapping your neck like a twig can be both of the aforementioned. The lugubrious beer-drinkers with big moustaches are often Dutch, whilst the ape-haired men with wives who appear to think that children outside the womb are still attached by an umbilical cord are usually Greek. I haven’t nailed down the few French here, but I’ve been told they are the ones who dislike having to use that international tongue called English. And, unfortunately, Mr fat shaven-headed lobster skin clad in knee-length shorts and a Manchester United shirt, with the gross tattooed wife in tow, is generally British.

Tuesday 31st

Tomorrow Greece is introducing its fourth ban on smoking in indoor public places, and the politically correct wankers who want to force their world-view on everyone else are diligently analysing why the previous bans didn’t work. Apparently they need to be more forceful, they need to make the rules clearer, there’s a need for big fines and it is utterly necessary that smokers be pilloried, racked and beaten with strips of nicotine patches until they die. You see, the barmen and women, and THE CHILDREN must be protected from that lethal, killing secondhand smoke ... Wasn’t it Goebbels who said that if you tell a lie forcefully enough and often enough it will be believed?

Well, the reason why the previous bans didn’t work is quite simple. According to Athens News 42% of Greeks smoke, 63% of Greek men smoke, 39% of Greek women smoke, 37% of Greek children aged 12 to 17 smoke and 45% of the 16 to 25 age bracket smoke. What we are seeing here with the undermining of the rules, the twisting of the legislation, the lack of enforcement and the complete disregard for the new laws is something called ... now what are the words ... oh yeah, what we are seeing here is ‘democracy in action’.

You see, whilst 42% of Greeks smoke and there’ll be some of those who want to be forced to stop, there’s an even larger proportion of the remaining 58% of non-smokers who fall into these categories: ‘children’, ‘it’s got fuck-all to do with the government’, ‘stop telling people how to live their lives’, ‘surely it’s up to the bar owners’ and the huge category called ‘frankly I don’t give a shit’. In our democracies the governments in power would be hugely grateful to get into power on a 42% vote. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the European population would be hugely grateful for governments that did what they were voted into power to do, without corruption, instead of acting as enforcers for the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.

In the same paper in which I was reading about the new smoking ban here I also learned that small businesses (ie those employing less than 50 people) make up 98.7% of the Greek economy. So, bearing that in mind, one should also bear in mind that tourism is the country’s second largest income. It would therefore not be too much of a stretch to add that a large proportion of those small businesses are bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Perhaps the Greek government should bear in mind, as it scrabbles for money to cover its huge debts, that in Britain, in 2007, the pub closure rate leapt from 4 a month to 27 a month, and has not dropped below that rate ever since. In fact, the shape of Britain has now been changed forever, with many pubs that were serving beer when Sir Walter Rayleigh was sparking up his pipe, now being gutted and turned into residential homes. And what was different about 2007? Oh yeah, the smoking ban. Occam’s Razor doesn’t lie.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Creepy-crawlies, Moaning Brits, Books etc.

Wednesday 18th

To start us off , here’s a picture of Yorgos, the boss of the Revans Bar, hard at work. He was trying to catch forty winks on a sunbed but, being unable to get comfortable in the heat, decided to cool off. All perfectly understandable when last night he closed the bar at one and the night before at four.

Time for a little rant:

You’ve sold your house in England and gone through all the grief of buying yourself a house on the island of Crete, either in the seaside resort of Makrigialos or up in a mountain village nearby. One would have thought that you would be satisfied, that you’d achieved some sort of goal you’d fixed upon as retirement drew close, but no, here are just a few I’ve heard:

You don’t like the heat, you don’t like olives, you don’t like sunning yourself and you’ll only get into the sea when fishes get out to go to the toilet. There’s no Tescos or Asdas here and it’s difficult to buy your Homepride cook-in sauces. There’s no Chinese or Indian restaurants, and cod, chips and mushy peas are a forgotten dream. You can’t get British TV. You pine for green fields, and for snow at Christmas. You miss your relatives, though after just a few days you want to kill them when they visit. You want to go home where everthing is easy and familiar, wrap yourself in a duvette, eat oven chips and watch Eastenders every day.

Y’know, there are ex-pats here in extreme need of a slap. How well now I understand that Australian appellation for the British: whingeing poms. Many of them are living in a place tens millions of other British would kill to get to, yet all they seem to do is moan.

And when they’re not moaning about Crete they’re bitching about each other. They tend to form up into cliques and chunter on about ‘them in that other clique’. When we first came here we associated with a couple who, so they said, didn’t like the cliquishness of Makrigialos, then got huffy when we didn’t want to go off drinking with them in various mountain villages. We realised then that they were pissed off because we weren’t joining their particular clique. Others here have had rows and fights (hot sun and alcohol, go figure) with the result that so-and-so is no longer talking to so-and-so. Leaving this place for five months every year we tend to to see all this from a perspective that’s lacking in the full-time residents here. It is all rather pathetic to see adults behaving like they haven’t yet found their way out of the playground.

Oh damn, I was bitching and moaning.

Thursday 19th

Perhaps I’m starting to get blasé about these things because I’ve failed to mention until now that The Technician is sitting at the top of the ‘New & Future Releases (science fiction)’ list on Amazon, and has been doing so for three weeks. This happened last year with Orbus, and that book also got to number one in the ‘Bestseller (science fiction)’ list. However, I do wonder if that’ll happen to The Technician since I see that Banks fella has an SF book out, the bugger.

Yesterday we again met a couple who have just returned from Norway to spend a a few months in their house here. Tor and Tova are definitely not a couple of moaners like those I mentioned before – they too get some perspective by leaving this place for a little while. We had a drink with them by the beach, then proceeded to a meal at the Cabbiano where the Greek waiters felt inspired to do one of their dances. Here’s a picture of Niko in mid-leap and Stelios behind him. We bought our house from the latter of these but our problems with it doesn’t keep us from his restaurant, which is always pleasant.

Friday 20th

I’ve been quite remiss this morning, sitting and reading the last few hundred pages of the last book of a trilogy I was particularly enjoying, rather than knuckling down and getting on with some work. But before I tell you about that trilogy, I’ll rewind back through my reading list. After finishing the Karin Slaughter books Skin Privilege, Fractured and Genesis, and enjoying them quite a lot, I felt it was time for me to read something a bit less bloody and traumatic, so I picked up a book Caroline’s parents had brought with them when they came.

Unseen Academicals is the latest Terry Pratchett out in paperback. This was one presumably written with Mr Pratchett’s voice recognition software, now his Alzheimer’s has killed his ability to type, but it was still a thoroughly enjoyable romp. I felt it wasn’t quite as good as a lot of his other books, but it still stands a head and shoulders over the majority of what makes it onto the bookshop shelves and I’ll certainly reread it.

After Pratchett I obviously felt the need for some more murder and mayhem – a need quite adequately catered for my Bait – Nick Brownlee (just read the first paragraph of this book and you’ll see what I mean), and then Evil at Heart – Chelsea Cain. The latter book turns out to be the third in a series, the first two of which I haven’t read. I do wonder if my enjoyment of it might have been spoilt if I actually had read them. Reading references to what has happened in the previous two books I do wonder if this one is a bit of franchise extending.

After these I read The Disappeared by M R Hall. I did like the book prior to this, The Coroner, though the heroine was definitely one that started to irritate. Here we had a fascinating story to follow, which I enjoyed, and a heroine who had moved from the irritating category to thoroughly annoying.

It’s funny, but there’s a thread that connects the trilogy I’ve just read, right back through everything else I’ve read to the Karin Slaughter books: the damaged hero or heroine. It’s starting to get annoying. Do these people always have to be: in the midst of a divorce, recovering from abuse either recently or in childhood, have some sort of problem like alcoholism, drug abuse, depression or in one case dyslexia? Y’know something, a modern police procedural or thriller would be unique if the central protagonist had a happy and relatively uneventful childhood, a happy marriage, good health and complete lack of psychological problems.

Next I read the Steig Larsson trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire & The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Caroline read the first of these before me, as had others I’ve talked to here. All said these were excellent and I would enjoy them. The first third of the first book I found a bit leaden and clunky but by the time I got beyond that I was hooked, mostly by the (damaged) character Salander. There’s not much point in me recommending these books (though there is a point in me saying you must persevere with the first of them) since people only need to take a glance at the bestseller lists over the last year or so. They’re very good. I do however have to comment on one thing that did begin to grate: every bad guy was always a guy, a bigot, always referred to women as ‘whores’ and usually had a penchant for kiddy porn, every woman (except for just one in the first book to whom just a few hundred words were devoted) was strong and on the side of right. Testament to the mind-distorting powers of political correctness.

Monday 23rd

Oh dear, windy and cool on Sunday – I even put on a T-shirt – and cool again this morning. I do hope this doesn’t mark the end of the hot spell and descent into Autumn...

Tuesday 24th

Whenever I casually chuck into conversation that we have scorpions around and sometimes in our house here, this usually raises a shudder only somewhat ameliorated by me telling the listener that they’re never bigger than an inch long. I then relate how, when we first came here and everything seemed to be going wrong, I heard a thud on my pillow in the night , and how it was almost with a feeling of inevitability that I turned the light on to find a scorpion there. I further add the story about the scorpion I found here, some distance from our house in a pile of olive stumps I was cutting up. This one was nearly three inches long and had a nice big fat sting. I’m a story-teller after all.

Talk then usually turns to creepy-crawlies of very stripe. Snakes get a mention, but we don’t see many here. Then there are the beetles that seem to wear hobnail boots and others that fly at you like seeker bullets, the crickets the size of cigars that land with a sound like someone dropping a bag of spoons, the praying mantises that watch you with odd intelligence, the ants that range in size from flecks of dust to an inch long, the black bees as big as strawberries and the hornets that look like they’re made of coloured plastic. ‘Spiders?’ the listeners will enquire. No, not many – they’re bigger in England. I say this with just an element of doubt because I once heard something drop as I opened window shutters and, by the sound, thought it must be a gecko till I noted, just as it scuttled out of sight, far too many striped legs. I recently commented to a couple about this lack of big spiders here and, bloody hell, I walked outside two days later to find this bugger (below) on our geraniums. It measures about two inches from leg tip to leg tip. I comfort myself with the observation that the shrouded corpses in its web seem to be wasps...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chillies & Stuff.

Wednesday 11th

It’s been hot and humid for a couple of weeks now, not the usual dry heat, and lately the sea has been as warm as bathwater. Now I know that’s a description somewhat undermined by misuse since you don’t tend to walk into the bath wincing as the water level reaches your genitals, but in this case it’s true. The water is the temperature of bathwater that’s been left for a while, lukewarm, but near the shore, where the waves are meeting the hot sand, it often feels like someone has turned on the hot tap. If you swim any distance you can feel yourself starting to sweat. Just floating about in the waves or lying sprawled across a lilo seems the option most people are taking.

Another result of this heat, perhaps in combination with someone cutting a couple of trees down in the land directly in front of our house (pictures above – note the rubbish, which is something you never see in the tourist brochures), is that we’ve had some visitors. Having done my 2,000 words yesterday, then us having gone to wet ourselves first on the outside then on the inside, we returned here. Whilst then heading to water the garden I noticed something black and curly lying on the garden wall and wondered what it was, a twig, bird crap, maybe a crack I hadn’t noticed before? It turned out to be a little snake. To me this was good to see – just an enjoyable bit of wildlife to observe. Caroline’s reaction to these animals is slightly different, being of the mildly spooked ‘I ought to be scared of this’ kind. I tipped it off the wall into the weeds below. Then, this morning, I noted her opening the patio doors rather cautiously. I thought this was about snakes until I saw the scorpion folded up on the floor. It then unfolded, stretched out to about an inch long and made a dash for our sofa. I got the bugger with a teaspoon. Yeah, I like wildlife, but we tend to prefer to share our house with geckos only.

They have chilli plants here on Crete that are quite beautiful, especially near the end of the year when the chilli colours range from green, yellow, orange, red, white and purple. These are mostly used for decoration rather than gustation. It’s weird that here’s an island with a climate in which it is possible to grow every herb and spice under the sun, yet Greek food is bland. Having previously grown chillies from seeds brought from England I decided last year that I would next grow these colourful Cretan chillies. We first gathered some large chillies from a nearby village called Vori, then a Dutch woman called Honi gave us a branch of small chillies torn from a plant in the garden of the property she was renting. I removed seeds from the ripe chillies on all of these, dried them and stored them away. This year I planted them, and ended up with so many plants I supplied them to five other people and also left a box of them in the Gecko Bar for yet others to help themselves to. Anyway, here’s the result:

Above I mentioned the Dutch woman, Honi. She used to run the Status Bar in Makrigialos, but last year she left the keys and buggered off, also leaving, allegedly, numerous debts. The bar is now closed. I also mentioned the Gecko Bar. The proprietor has been trying to sell the lease and now it is closed. She closed it in July to take some time off for her ‘tennis elbow’ to heal a little. It is still closed and now her arm is in plaster – probably the result of trying to single-handedly manage a bar that could stay open for upwards of 12 hours i.e. closing time would be when the last drunk staggered out. Both these bars have struggled in the present financial climate simply because they are not owned but rented and, understand this, the rents are all year, tourists aren’t. There’s a big similarity here with the British pub, in that the breweries make their money more from rents than beer sales, steadily turning over publicans foolish to maybe remortgage a house to finance a refit and pay rents that profits are simply not covering. Turning optimists into cynics. Here it’s Greek owners rather than breweries.

Friday 13th

On Wednesday, after having polished off 3,000, I felt quite justified in visiting what has become our usual haunt this year, the Revens Bar, first for frappes, then for a swim and later for a miso kilo aspro krasi or a half kilo of white wine. As is usual with me I order stuff in Greek no matter what language the one serving me speaks. On this day Yorgos was leaving the running of the bar to Kostis, whose English isn’t great. As he delivered our usual of a miso kilo I then said to him, ‘Sto melon milou ta synithismena parakalo’ which I thought translated as ‘In the future I say to you the usual please’. He looked at me in puzzlement and in broken English said, ‘You want some melon?’ I said no and tried to explain what I thought I had said with, so Caroline tells me, my face turning increasingly red with embarrassment. He came back five minutes later with a plate of water melon and honeydew melon on ice. So much for being a smart arse. In retrospect I realise it’s something like leh-o or lego for ‘say’ and I probably should have stuck a tha in there for ‘will’ or ‘shall’. I’ll ask Yorgos about that, and ask him to explain to Kostis that I wasn’t demanding a perpetual supply of melon with our wine.

Monday 16th

Zero Point is coming along nicely though I have to admit to not achieving my 10,000 words last week. I’ve also learnt from Julie Crisp that the edited typescript of The Departure has been sent, but is still sitting in some DHL store room at this end since the petrol strike. Caroline is keeping her mobile phone on ready for a call from the delivery man, but nothing yet. What else? The temperature here is high. Right now as I write this at 10.30 in the morning it is 30 in the shade and still climbing. Oddly, it has again been hotter up here in the mountains than down in Makrigialos – the sea breeze, even though from the South, makes a big difference. However, down there the sea is still like a bath.

Tuesday 17th

The temperature yesterday down in Makrigialos was 37 in the shade with the sea being whipped up by a constant wind. When I went in I thought it was cold, but that was just the contrast I was feeling because when I did my swim across from Revans Bar to the harbour my body adjusted and it again felt like I was in a bath. This is one of the things I’ve discovered from living in such a hot place; very often it’s not the temperatue on the thermometer that’s important but contrast, whether there is a breeze and humidity. I’ve shivered and wished for a jumper in 26 degrees because we drove down into it from a mountain temperature of 30, I’ve poured sweat in a temperature of 28 yet felt quite fine in a temperature of 32 because it wasn’t so humid and I’ve sat outside to cool off in the breeze even though the thermometer read 27 inside and 28 outside. Then there’s acclimatizing to all this. You certainly know you’re acclimatized when you find yourself, as we did back in May, sitting at a table by the beach wearing jeans and a jumper whilst just a few yards away people are sprawled out in bikinis and swimming trunks. Anyway, the overall temperature for Crete today is predicted to be 40 in the shade, so I think the jeans can stay in a draw for a while yet.

2,000 words done yesterday and Zero Point has now passed the 50,000 mark. I’ll see if I can polish off another 2,000 today before we head down to use the Internet (Tuesdays are Internet day).

Further note: I did.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cretan Update.

Off to a pretty good start the week before last with 10,240 words done over four days. The following week started a bit crappily with lots of running about after shopping on the Monday (and finding nothing delivered because the delivery trucks have only just been fueled up again). On the Tuesday I managed a desultory word count of 1591, but this was mainly because I was re-reading stuff, shuffling bits about and basically getting my head around where I want to go with this.

Wednesday 4th

I got on a roll today with 3,000 words bringing the total to a spit away from 40,000 and I’ve even got a good idea of how I’m going to end Zero Point. I’m also very much enjoying tying things in with a future that’s already there, so to speak. Those of you that have read the Owner stories in The Engineer ReConditioned may remember the proctors, those humanoids that did the Owner’s bidding? Well, I’ll not give too much away, but they’ve got to put in an appearance at some point in the Owner’s ... history. Maybe very soon, or maybe in the next ten thousand years (snigger). Then there’s other things to consider, like an Alcubierre Drive...

Thursday 5th

Warming up with the first paragraph above and now this. A certain amount of distraction getting in the way what with the temperature in the high thirties and the sea down in Makrigialos being the temperature of bath water, but I will persevere...

Hey, it occurs to me that I might try doing a few more video clips from here. Well, I’ll try one and see how loading from Revens goes. It is noticeable that when someone comes in and starts that kind of heavy usage (usually the downloading of films from the Internet) Yorgos’s Internet radio goes off and everything starts getting a bit slow. So, to that end, how about some interesting questions from all of you posted in the comments here. Do be warned, however, that if it’s a question I’ve answered ad nauseum before I’ll be giving it a miss.

Tuesday 10th
Good start to the week this week too with over 4.5 thousand words done to today, Tuesday.

Cats and Dogs.

Some random thoughts on this subject...

Living in another country, and in a small rural village like Papagianades, really forces you to think about some stuff. With our English soppy-about-pets and disconnected-from-reality attitude to animals, some things come as quite a shock: the casual cruelty, the killing of cats and dogs and the seeming hatred some Greeks have of these animals. But then reality starts to impinge and you start thinking.

Some Greeks keep dogs, or cats, or both and generally can’t afford vet bills, frequent flea treatments and, most importantly, the hundreds of Euros it costs to have these animals neutered. The result of this is boxes of puppies dumped outside supermarkets, or bags of kittens dumped in ditches. It’s a kind of cowardice, it’s not taking responsibility – another result of which is unwanted family pets dumped at the side of the road. Maybe some will find my attitude harsh, but I feel a pet owner has three choices: give it a home, find it a home, or kill it quickly and cleanly.

In our village there are three people who feed the stray cats: one feeds about 21, another feeds 12 whilst yet another feeds about 30. I learnt this from one of our neighbours, Yorgos. He keeps a patch of land in the village on which he grows fruit trees, and I’ve always wondered why the ground underneath is bare. Why not grow melons, cucumbers, tomatoes and, in fact, any of the crops that grow here so readily? He doesn’t grow these things because the seeds, seedlings and adult plants are forever being uprooted by the numerous cats using his land as a litter tray. He understandably is reluctant to eat melons smeared with cat shit or lettuces that have been pissed on.

You have to consider how a gardener feels when one of the constant pleasures of his job is soil smelling of cat piss and fly-blown cat shit on his hands. You also have to consider too how numerous often hungry cats, and dogs, will mix with free-range chickens. How does a Greek who has kept chickens all his life, and lost many of them to stray cats and dogs, regard such animals? He and the gardner will see them as stealing food from their mouths and destroying the product of their labour. They will quite probably come to hate such animals and quite likely pass that attitude on to their children. They will demonize them, calling them dirty, smelly, food stealing flea-ridden disease carriers and, to a certain extent, they will not be wrong.

Consider the attitudes of various city dwellers across the world; those who feed pidgeons, and those who consider them to be flying rats. Consider residents and sometime residents of Britain’s coastal towns; those who view seagulls as beautiful flying creatures and part of the atmosphere, and those who have to clear up the detritus of torn-open bin bags, whose roofs get wrecked by nesting gulls, gutters blocked with stinking detritus and whose cars regularly wear a layer of guano.

In Britain we poison and trap mice and rats because, well, they’re dirty smelly food stealing flea-ridden disease carriers yet, there are those who keep them as pets. The first version are vermin, the second are not. I was once asked by someone what a weed is, to which the reply is that it is a plant growing in the wrong place, not producing what you want or doing what you want it to do. Isn’t it logically the case that the same question posed about vermin should receive a similar answer? How else do we make a distinction? Should certain animals have a get-out clause based on their cuteness and cuddlyness, their asthetic appeal?

Ask yourself: why does a cat have more of a right to live than the substantially more intelligent animal we regularly turn into bacon?

One final thought occurs to me about the situation here. Why do we not have a similar attitude to such animals in Britain? Even fifty or more years ago, though the attitude was closer, it was nowhere near as strong. The answer, maybe, comes in two parts: climate and human population density. We don’t have problems with large breeding populations of strays because there’s very little room, amidst 60 million people, for such populations to grow without being spotted and dealt with and, frankly, most of them end up as road kill. Also, year on year, a lot less of them survive the winter than do here.

Talking to various people about other places across the world I have to wonder if it is a truism that hot poor countries have a bad attitude to cats and dogs because they survive and breed like vermin, and because the people there simply cannot afford them.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Let me give you a piece of advice. If you ever find yourself in Crete, in need of food, and a Cretan offers you potatoes from his garden, snatch his damned arm off. In the supermarkets here the potatoes are good, better than those from British supermarket – you’ll have no problems with watery roast spuds or rubbery baked spuds. However, the garden varieties here are how you dream of potatoes, how you remember them from your childhood. When baked the skins are crispy, the interiors fluffy, prepared in any other way they are superb, and they really taste of potatoes! Just saying.

Fuel Strike

With the car’s fuel guage registering three-quarters of a tank we took Caroline’s parents to the airport. Over ensuing days we took one trip to Sitia and two trips to Makrigialos, on the last of these my intention being to fill up the petrol tank. There was a queue into the garage we normally use (the cheapest) so I drove on past. No hurry, really. Big mistake. I soon learned why they were queuing.

During a further necessary trip to Sitia (Caroline uses a dentist here to have her teeth cleaned – one hour of teeth cleaning as opposed to the British NHS ten minutes then out the door). The car was getting near to sucking fumes so I thought it might be an idea to stick 10 Euros worth in from one of the more expensive Sitia garages. One I passed was open, but I would go in one of the next two. They were both closed. After the dental visit we headed back home then subsequently to Makrigialos. Our station was closed, little paper signs up on the pumps with the word Telos on them, which means end, ending, close, which in turn means here that the tanker drivers have gone on strike again.

So now we were in Makrigialos and not entirely sure we had enough petrol to get home, or rather, do a round trip to home and to a garage again. I took a walk up to another station there and thankfully found them to be selling something. I got the car and drove up there, putting in €20 worth of Super 100, the high octane stuff for older cars at a cost of €1.75 a litre.

I don’t know why the tanker drivers are on strike – I don’t have enough Greek to follow the news on TV. I’d like to think they’re objecting to the ridiculous business-killing tax on petrol here, but I doubt it. I do know that the the lefties have a lot of power here and that they’ve been kicking up a big stink about the government measures to try and get Greece out of debt. The dockers, who across the world seem controlled by Bolsheviks, have been butt-fucking the Greek tourist industry by stopping tourists getting to their ferries.

Most likely this is about the driver’s pay, the taxes they have to pay on it, their inflated pensions and early retirement. When things get tough the unionists take the opportunity to kick everyone else in the teeth. Here is a chance to strike a blow for the cause and push everyone further along the road to the socialist utopia.

All of this of course raises other spectres. Two days of strike and service stations are empty. How long before the shops start emptying? Which lefties are going to get the knife in next, maybe the power workers, water workers, the post, other truck drivers, water? And will I receive the Peter Lavery edits of The Departure anytime soon, since the typescript is coming via DHL?

Here on Crete, as well demonstrated by Caroline’s recent trip down into the village and subsequent return with a gift of a big bag of potatoes and a melon, people aren’t going to starve in any great hurry, but I have to wonder how similar scenarios would pan-out in Britain, with its 60 million supermarket dependents. I have to think too about things like the Hubbert Peak, all the problems in those areas of the world where most of the oil comes from. Our civilization is like a car: take out the fuel and it ceases to be any use at all.


I’ve just been apprised of the reason for the strike and it is this: Greece is full of closed shops. The problems we had with the electricians here was due to one such closed shop; the registered electricians in Greece have to pay something in the region of €750 every two months for the privilege. The truck drivers, it turns out, have to pay a ridiculous amount for their life-time license – I’m told its €250,000 – and they are understandably pissed off that under EU rules such closed shops are not allowed, and must themselves be closed down. So, how was the strike ended? Under Greek law the drivers can be conscripted into the army in times of emergency with the result that if they strike they can be imprisoned and have their trucks confiscated. This is what is happening, slowly, because some of the councils that are supposed to issue the paperwork are not complying, and many of the truck drivers are in hiding, so the papers can’t be served on them. I rather think this is going to get ugly.

Jerry Bauer

I recently received an email from one Jonathan Bauer, a relative of Jerry Bauer, who has died. He was the guy who took that first photograph of me you’ll see in older copies of my first books (to the left here). Jonathan asked if I could write a note to be read at Jerry’s funeral. I fear I missed that ... deadline, but here it is for you.

It's been eleven years now since my photograph session with Jerry Bauer, so please forgive some hazy recollection. This was all a bit odd to me since I'd only just been taken on by Pan Macmillan and couldn't quite accept that readers might want to see a picture of me. Caroline and I met him where instructed at Temple underground station then I believe went off to a cafe where he bought us coffee. I can't remember if it was at the station or in the cafe where I saw his well-worn cameras, one loaded with colour film and one with black and white. I wondered why he hadn't gone digital, but obviously these were the tools he was used to. He led us off into the streets around Temple, favoring litter-choked alleys where I could pose as the mean and moody hard-ass SF writer. I felt like a complete tart and slightly embarrassed, folding up the collar of my jacket, dipping my head just so, noting people wandering past and gazing at me in puzzlement as they wondered who I might be. Whilst all this was going on we chatted to Jerry. Caroline was fascinated to hear stories about him photographing Julie Christy and (I think) Dirk Bogart. When he casually mentioned another SF writer he'd photographed, Robert Silverberg, I repeated the name, slightly gobsmacked. He reacted enthusiastically, 'Do you know Bob?' he asked me. Erm, not really. The previous names mentioned just sailed by me, but Robert Silverberg was a legend. Later, about the time we parted, he asked if I would like my photographs touched up. I said no -- I didn't want to frighten anyone when they actually met me.

Sorry to hear about your loss. Jerry knew I was nervous and quickly put me at ease. Seemed like a nice guy.