Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Winds of Crete

So, Caroline’s parents came here for eighteen days and, a day or so before they arrived, the wind started blowing. Crete is famous for its winds – there’s a book with the title The Winds of Crete (one of many I read about three years ago). The wind did not really let up for most of the time they were here so we got sand blasted on the beach, the sea was chilled (a little) and swimming any distance a pain because of the spray in my face. Up here the bead curtains rattled continuously, the shutters banged and chairs perambulated around the terrace. We jokingly told Gerry and Myrtle, when they were going, to take the wind with them. They did, because it stopped the very next day.

As we drove back from Iraklion airport the wind had turned very hot, along the south coast road it was cooler to drive with the windows closed (without air conditioning) since on occasion what came down off the mountains and through the window felt like the draught from a furnace. The next day it was completely still in Papagianades with the temperature rapidly climbing into the thirties. Driving down to Makrigialos was odd, because we drove into cloud and then out of it into a muggy southern breeze, and the sea down there was rough, but warm. Today (Monday 26th) as I write this, it is still again, the noise of the wind replaced by the racket of cicadas and the temperature climbing.

It is annoying that I’ve chosen this very time to set my nose back to the grindstone, but I’m a man of my word and I will do 2,000 words today despite the temptation to abandon this computer and sit out on the terrace sipping frappes. This blog, now, is essentially a warm-up (take note of that all you would-be writers).

Okay, some more pictures for you. The first here is of a plant purchased with money given by Myrtle and Gerry so we could get something for our tenth wedding anniversary (anyone got a name for this?). It grows somewhat like a banana so I put in this large pot until it has thrown up some more rolls of leaves whereupon I hope to divide it then transfer it to the two pots you see sitting each side of the ruin doorway (also bought with that money).

The other plants, presently growing in out outside sink, are a gift from a British couple here (thanks Martin and Vicky). I’d been supplying various people, including them, with spare plants I’d grown and Martin came back with the offer of these tobacco plants. I first assumed he meant tobacco flowers, but no, these are the real deal. I was a little bit wary until discovering that it is not actually illegal to grow tobacco, not anywhere, not even Britain (I think). I guess the assumption of illegality stems from (excuse the pun) those other plants that often end up inside a rollie paper. All I need now is some way of finely shredding these...

Well, it seems Gerry and Myrtle took only the North wind with them. On the second day it was perfectly still in Papagianades, but as we drove down to Makrigialos, we encountered an oddity in July: a great mass of cloud halfway down. At the beach we found rough seas blown in by a South wind, which was obviously encountering an air temperature difference higher up to cause those clouds. Then, on the following day, rough seas still and part of the beach has gone missing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Revans Bar

Just to show you where I'm sending these blogs from, here's a few pictures of me in the Revans Bar in Makrigialos:

And here's our genial host Yorgos at the same bar which can be found here at http://www.makrigialos-holidays.gr/ I feel obliged to add that he has two rooms for rent above the bar (what I'll do for the chance of a free beer).

Happy holidays!

Chair Addiction.

The image here is courtesy of Sue Carpenter, an SFX reader on Crete (who also got a letter in the previous issue). Thanks for this, Sue.

It is nice to see Tor doing a bit of advertising – something I never saw for my first six or so books. I also noted, when in Britain, how small Tor sections were appearing in book shops across the country.

Still not writing much yet. I’ve no real excuse: visitors never put me off on previous occasions, nor did building work or some of the traumas that accompany living here. I guess, because I’m so far ahead, I’m just being lazy, taking a holiday, but be assured that you’ll still be getting your fix every year. Next Monday I knuckle down again to my 2,000 words a day.

So, after rescuing that first chair I seem to have acquired a bit of a chair habit. Caroline told me that she would quite like a few of the traditional kafenion chairs for up around the ruin and, being the skip diver that I am, I saw a couple in a local tip and immediately grabbed them. I completely disassembled them and out of them am making one complete one. Just a little bit more work to do...

Here also are some further random pictures of the garden, Jim of the excellent breakfast at the Lithos on Makrigialos harbour and my father-in-law revealing his inner alien.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Chair

Well, the dog I couldn’t fix, but the chair here I could. You have to remember that before I became the big famous author (hollow laugh) I worked in numerous jobs and acquired various skills. I’m also the kind of person who finds something broken and has to try repairing it, hence three restored bikes, loads of mowers (for when I was self-employed and running around cutting grass) and numberless other bits and pieces, including furniture. Also, I once had a job as a skip lorry driver, so that gave me access to all sorts of junk to play with.

This chair had been thrown into one of the roadside dumps up here in the mountains – where rubbish is heaped then basically dozered off a cliff (recycling here means getting on your bike again, if you have one). It is precisely the sort of chair we wanted for our terrace here but found to be ridiculously overpriced. I pulled over, took one look at it and decided to have it. This then entailed my three passengers cramming in the back since the only place it would fit was the front passenger seat. Then I drove home with only the three available gears since the edge of the chair was in the way of the gear stick.

Lots of the trim was coming off, but that was just a case of wood glue and clamps. The bottom was broken out, two of the front to back struts snapped and the thick piece of bamboo running crosswise snapped away at one end and all the binding missing. First I replaced those struts, using lengths of a wooden curtain rail I had here – for one of them I necessarily had to drill a hole in through the front to get it in place. I then drilled in through the side to fit a dowel down the centre of the the bamboo (you can see the dowel protruding in the first picture). The next day I replaced all the missing binding. I used lengths of broom (the plant, not the thing you sweep up with, first flattened between thumb and the shaft of a screwdriver, then wrapped round with wood glue and clamped into place. Stain and then varnish followed, then the cushion you see bought from a local supermarket for 10 Euros. I’m very happy with it and it is very comfortable. I just need the previous owner of this chair to dump three more of them!


Here’s Owen Roberts take on Orbus: http://unwritable.blogspot.com/2010/06/orbus.html

Not much writing being done here at the moment. Caroline’s parents are staying with us, building work has recommenced, Mikalis having returned from Germany and announcing that he’s now getting divorced from his wife of twenty years (there’s much more to her visit to hospital I mentioned previously, like, a hundred anti-depressants), and I still want to kill the neighbour’s child (who we don’t see because he’s in hiding).

Here’s some more pictures from our garden. If any of you know the names of these succulents then please let me know.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Sent by Mobile

Here's a picture sent by mobile ... can anyone read the note above?

Get Slaughtered.

I can’t remember whether or not I’ve commented on Karin Slaughter books before, but I certainly will now.

In need of distraction I picked up Skin Privilege and started reading. I guess, after recent events, what I didn’t need was a story that started off with someone being sprayed with lighter fuel and set on fire, but I continued reading. This book is one of a series of books featuring the characters Sara Linton (pathologist), Jeffrey Tolliver (boss cop), Lena Adams (junior cop with attitude) and I zoomed through it in a day. The story and the pace are more than engaging enough even though I often felt the overpowering need to get hold of some of these characters and slam their heads together. Having read numerous previous books featuring them, I’m starting to find their angst a bit tiring, and the entire format a bit tired. I think this is a danger in police procedurals in a limited setting with the same characters ... any book in fact ... which is why it was great to then pick up Fractured. To me this was the much better book. The main character in this, Will Trent – a dyslexic cop – has appeared before (Triptyche?) and is much less irritating. Excellent book – again I polished it off in a day and now look forward to getting started on Slaughter’s latest, Genesis. And I have to add that despite the adverse comments above, if you haven’t read these and like this sort of stuff, you should read them all.

Greek Notes.

30C in Britain and Caroline’s dad, Gerry, texted to say he’s looking forward to coming out to Crete to cool off. Today Caroline texted him to let him know that we were sitting outside at 9.30 in the evening in a temperature of 33C.

Expats here from ‘up North’ express their delight in eating mushy peas and deride our southern (Essex) indifference to the dish. Henceforth I’ll inform them that ‘down South’ we eat fresh peas, whilst ‘up North’ they’ve grown accustomed to sloppy seconds.

A noticeable effect of the feeling of alienation some expats get is how they often become less cosmopolitan, more nationalistic and also more parochial in attitude about a place they left behind. Ah, drinking pink gins on the veranda to dull the pain, crying about the lack of chip shops, Heinz Beans and a Tesco’s down the road. I tell you even the old home country accents seem to get stronger.

‘Siga-siga’ is an expression frequently used here. It doesn’t mean ‘you smoke too much’ or ‘do you want a cigar?’ but ‘slowly-slowly, take it easy, stop your rushing about’. It’s one I often encounter when struggling to say something in Greek, or when sweating to get a job done, or hurrying somewhere. It’s also an attitude that results in that common occupation here of ‘waiting for the Greek worker to turn up’: the carpenter to measure up for furniture, the guy coming to lay tiles, the one coming to repair the roof, and now the one to measure up our ruin for windows and doors. You get it in some restaurants and bars as you wait interminably for a drink or a meal, gritting your teeth and telling yourself it’s just the easier slower lifestyle of the Greeks. And its an expression that now pisses me off.

Hey guys, if you want your mobile phones, your 4x4s, your flat screen TVs and your laptops then I suggest you take your ‘siga-siga’ and shove it where the sun don’t shine. Yes, I know you think that the English, the Germans, the ‘xenos’ here have money trees in their gardens, and so you charge accordingly, but that’s just not the case. The money is the result of a basic incomprehension of the ‘siga-siga’ ethos. You make money out of constant effort, not from the rip-off.

Why is Greece bankrupt? Because the corrupt government either trousers money it hasn’t got, or pisses it up the wall on ‘projects’. It’s not really much different from Britain or any other country in the EU, or America for that matter. It’s just a lot closer to the cliff edge.