Saturday, May 17, 2014

Merik-es Thooli-es (some jobs)

Just as a slight release from editing boredom I thought I’d do a post about some of the things I’ve been up to over the last few weeks – those things that don’t involve me tramping miles across the mountains. I recently took away a metal table of Jean-Pierre’s to tidy up. It was painted white but rusty. I started by wire brushing off the loose paint but soon realised that the whole lot would have to come off.

Down in a local hardware store I found some powerful paint stripper and used that (some advice for the uninitiated: never wire brush while the paint stripper is still active as it’s like getting the spatter from a chip fryer over your arms and face). Still, even with the stripper it took a lot of work to get the thing down to base metal.

Next the primer coats then the final coats of white paint, which can be a bugger if you’re using a brush and not a spray can.

It had been suggested that I do this table because of what I did with my gate. This two tone result was because I’d run low on green paint and had a can of black I’d bought from Lidl a while back.

Having got into table mode I turned my attention to an old kafenion table I’d retrieved from a dump many years ago (Caroline walking a few paces away from me and pretending she didn’t know me). After my first attempt at tidying it up it ended up under layers of brown wood stain. Then, after a couple of winters outside, that was peeling and all its parts were coming loose. This is not finished yet – lots of rubbing down is required along with another coat of white and a thick coat of varnish on top.

Meanwhile I went to help out a friend (Hi Chris) cut down masses of bamboo on his property and feed it into a shredder. This seemed a shame when 10-foot lengths of bamboo would cost a small fortune in England if you could obtain them at all, but here they are an annoying weed. After that job I took away some bamboo for myself and am now using it to rebuild an arbour-type arch affair I gave up on growing grapes over and am now training a rosemary bush over.

So there you have it: I’ve been a busy bee. Now back to that damned editing.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hilldiggers USA

Here's the Night Shade/Skyhorse cover of Hilldiggers.

Very familiar of course.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Audible USA

Here are links to some of my books on Audible. I don't know whether these are obtainable outside the US

The Departure

Zero Point

Jupiter War
And now:

Also available are:

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Courtesy of Jean-Pierre

Wow, I actually slept for 9 hours last night which, even under normal circumstances is a lot, but lately is more than half again my usual. It took me a while to get functional so I didn’t head off for my walk until 9.30. This time I went up to the turbines on the mountain behind, turned left to walk along beside them, then continued where I normally turn off for Handras.

It was a short extra bit to the walk because the track only continued for the remaining two turbines then stopped, so I turned round and headed back along my usual route. Still, 7 miles walked.

While up on the mountain I noticed some thistles coming up that must be a close relative to the artichoke plant. I have to wonder about what led people to domesticate this plant. How hungry must you be to try eating a thistle?

Other plants are zooming up. I am presuming the first here is dill – the fennel which grows here everywhere does not flower until later. The second one is a thorny shrub with red berries and I have no idea what it is.

Also spotted on the way back was a series of stumps protruding from a bank. I think they were the stumps of pear trees and it looks like shoots have been grafted on. A strange method has been used. The shoots are held on with inner-tube rubber, the top of the stump covered in a thick layer of mud (I’m guessing the kind of mud they used to use for their roofs here) then a stone put on top. I have to assume it works very well. Tim and Helen, in Armeni have a tree that produces cherry plums, but the tree is forked and one branch produces the plums early in the season while the other does so later. Clever bit of grafting, that.

And finally, to answer the question burning in my reader’s minds: the title of this post is so because this is my first ever blog post from inside my house here on Crete. Jean-Pierre, my Belgian neighbour, decided to link his neighbours (Anna and I) to his internet connection. I now have a long network cable snaking through my house, while another extends overhead for about 30 metres to Anna’s house.

Cheers Jean-Pierre.  

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Wednesday 07/05/14

Damn but the weather can be changeable up here this time of year. One day you’re taking a walk in shorts and T-shirt, while contemplating taking off the shirt to sear your pearly white skin, the next day it’s jeans, jumper and raincoat, with some speculation about a body warmer too. But while I sit in here with the wood burning stove going I also have to take a reality check by looking at the digital thermometer.

I was feeling chilly in the house because the temperature had dropped below 20 inside and out (the outside temp is now rising because the sun is starting to hit the sensor). What a wimp. I’m guessing that my low calorie intake and being wind-blasted up on the mountain while taking a walk have something to do with my chilliness too.

The temperature here is generally much higher than in England (though sometimes at this time of year Essex beats it) and really, if I feeling like warming up a bit I just have to take a trip down to Makrigialos where the temperature is 5 degrees higher. Anyway, bearing in mind higher temperatures and a milder climate, it is time now for an obligatory picture of my veg patch to piss off my English neighbour and my brother:

The geraniums are looking good too after the recent rain:

The radishes will soon be filling out and I could start picking the spring onions now if I so wished. I also have various bean plants coming up and have been picking asparagus (though meagre amounts). Some stuff is of course pointless growing here. Peppers, for example, are €1 for a carrier bag full.

Right, that’s my post for today. Let’s see if I can manage a bit of conversational Greek.   

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Tuesday 6/5/14

I am now aiming to post here more frequently because I shouldn’t neglect those who read my blog and because it is useful for me in many ways. I get a walk down then back up the hill in Papagianades, which adds paces to my pedometer and assists towards my weight loss program. The discipline keeps me returning to my laptop and writing, which is what I am supposed to do. Also, while they seem inclined to chat, neither of the genial hosts at ‘The Avli’ (The Yard) speaks much English, so this is a good place for me to practise my steadily growing Greek vocabulary.

Now, on that last subject, I’m now using mnemonic clues and other techniques to stick stuff firmly in my mind. I reminded in this of my father’s ‘joke’ that enables one to remember the first 5 numbers in French. If you know them then, ‘Three cats went out in a leaky boat...’ Anyway, I’m making up my own clues for this language because sometimes you can make so few connections to English. Othigo, for example, means I drive, though it’s not pronounced precisely as you see it here.

One word that evaded me yesterday was the future tense of ‘I sit’. The present and past are, respectively, kathomay and kathisa, while the future tense always starts with a tha, which is the Greek version of ‘will’ or ‘shall’. When I was groping in my memory for this future tense verb and not finding it I made the assumption, based on other words I’d learned, that the future was tha kathiso. Wrong! It’s tha katso. Annoyed that I’d managed to forget this (if briefly) I made up something to imbed it in my mind. We once had a cat we named Fatso, so I now have in my mind ‘Fatso the cat will sit – tha katso’. Sounds daft I know, but it works.

Another I’m trying to memorise is paratiro which means ‘I observe’. Since I know the Greek word for window and it’s similar – parathiro – I now have ‘I observe the window’ paratiro to parathiro. But of course you’re getting no real sense of the emphasis on certain letters here, or of the confusion concerning those letters. Greek, for example, has far too many versions of ‘i’. It has yota, ita and ipsilon, plus epsilon-yota and omicron-yota. It also has two versions of o, some strange dipthongs and other combinations of letters, along with letters that don’t exist in English at all like psi, ksi and khi. Here’s one for you to be going along with next time you take a trip to Greece: mi, pi, alpha & rho in sequence µπap (MPAR) is ‘Bar’ because M&P at the start of a word make B, and the way to remember this is ‘MPs make busy bees’.

Still, this is all good fun and, apparently, learning a new language is one of the best mental exercises going. So, all those reading this and thinking, ‘When the hell is he going to get back to writing and talking about science fiction?’ can rest assured that I’m giving my mind a good workout and I’ll hopefully be approaching my work with some new muscles.    

Monday, May 05, 2014

Fun with a Scorpion

Yesterday when I took my walk to Handras I set out in shorts and t-shirt because the sun was shining and I expected the temperature to just climb, but cloud steadily thickened. As I approached that village I was pretty sure I was going to get rained on and it occurred to me that while I didn’t mind getting a bit wet since it was still warm, the Greek/English lexicon, sheet of paper with Anna’s latest lesson on it, wallet and notebook in my man-bag might not appreciate it. I started looking for a plastic bag, damning myself for not sticking to my idea of always carrying a spare because wherever you go here Greeks will give you gifts of fruit and veg. (I digress: on one of my first walks here a pickup stopped beside me and the old guy behind the wheel waved to the back and held up three fingers. I took three mandarins out of the back, thanked him, and enjoyed them on the way home.)

The first plastic bag I found had fur and other icky substance stuck inside so had probably contained a dead cat. I passed on that one. The next I picked up was clean so I put the vulnerable items in that then back in my man-bag. Rubbish in general, including plastic bags, is never in short supply here and is strangely lacking in the tourist photos. On many occasions I’ve had my Jaws moment while swimming only to see a carrier bag sliding by under water.

Rumbles of thunder ensued and I did get rained on but not enough to bother me much. Back home, with the weather clearing a little, I set about varnishing woodwork then tidying the garden and other areas surrounding the house. This done I read Greek for an hour before deciding that maybe it was time to fire up that USB microscope that has been sitting on my shelf for 2 or 3 years. I connected it to my laptop, opened camera app, then looked around for the slides. I couldn’t find them anywhere so had to pack the microscope away again and instead watched the Sopranos.

This morning I was determined to make a concerted search for those slides after a walk to Lithines. However, it was grey and pouring with rain and has only eased off now at 9.30. Foregoing my walk I began rummaging through drawers – always traumatic because every item has a memory attached. I threw stuff away and relocated it, then finally found the box of slides in a cobwebby mess behind my desk. Time to set up the microscope again...

Here’s Mr Scorpion in place:

And here are some shots of him, respectively the sting, part of the main body and one claw.

This is my first effort. I would have liked a lower magnification so as to get a detailed picture of the whole thing but at x20 this is the lowest of the main settings which then go up to x80 and x350. Here’s x80 on the sting, while x350 is just a difficult blurry mess I won’t bother with.

Maybe if I take a series of shots at different points along its body I can paste together a whole picture in one of the other programs I have available? That’s a project for another time. I also need to get hold of the kind of slides I remember from my childhood (when my parents bought me a very good microscope for maybe my 10th birthday). These slides have dished recesses in them so you can put in a droplet of filthy water and watch fascinating diatoms zipping about, and the app will allow me to take video clips of them.

There you go: it is now confirmed that I am a weirdo.

Sunday, May 04, 2014


So, I had two days off after an 8.5 mile there-and-back walk to a derelict village called Voila, pictures of which I shall scatter through this text. During these days I caught up with some jobs I felt I was getting behind on: making a couple of mosquito doors and a single screen to go in a door (only one of the doors was for me – the other two were for friends), putting some more plaster on the hall wall, varnishing this and that etc etc.

I feel that when I finally get to put a dead scorpion, which I have in a small cup on my desk, under my Lidl microscope, I’ll be on top of all I have to do around here...

Also during these days I was as usual checking my weight each morning (I do an average of that weight over the week and plot it on a graph. Talk about anal). I expected it to go up a little but it remained stable at just under 12 stone 6lbs then dropped a couple of pounds this morning. I reckon that this ‘rest’ has enabled my body to catch up with the trauma it’s been going through.

Anyway, I’m now below my target weight of 12.5 stone and edging below my top BMI. What the hell – I might as well go for below 12 stone and see how I feel about that. I would be interested to know what my blood pressure is at now so I’ll be looking out for when a cuff turns up next at Lidl.

Another thing about this rest was that it also seemed to enable my mind to catch up with the constant input of Greek. After my last lesson Anna had given me a text to read and learn along with a list of verbs. I found I was able to concentrate a lot harder and what hadn’t been sticking the day before imbedded in my mind. After she tested me on the ensuing lesson she took out her red pen and gave me 20 out of 20 for each section.

Though I am learning a lot of words and grammar, actually using the stuff in conversation is still difficult. My comprehension of spoken Greek and the speed with which I can formulate a reply are poor. Jean-Pierre, my Belgian neighbour who has been here half the time I have, can chatter away in Greek, yet he knows less words and less grammar. The simple fact is that he has spent his time with Greeks, talking, rather than, as Caroline and I did, heading for the beach where speaking Greek is just a game and all the barkeepers speak English.

Okay, back to these photographs. I was directed to this Voila by an English couple (Hi Tim and Helen) who live in a village called Armeni, and who I drop in on for numerous cups of coffee on occasion when I am coming back from my Handras windmill walk.

Voila is about three quarters of a mile beyond Handras. It is a pretty place (but then most places here are, especially when the sun comes out). I wandered about, took some photos, and as you can see took a look in a little church there. I’m guessing that some of the stuff in that church is very old and probably quite valuable. In England I don’t suppose they would be there for very long behind a door with a simple latch, and I’m guessing the collection plate would be empty.

Here’s a shot of the tourist information board:

On Tears

Here’s one that was going to go into my file ‘Unpublished Blogs’ but what the hell. I have no pride at the moment and maybe some experiencing the death of a loved one can use it as a cautionary tale.

On Tears

I’m still struggling with Caroline’s death and recent events have brought that home to me. Those reading this blog will know that after a few months abstinence I’ve had a drink or two in the local kafenion and elsewhere. No more ... well, for some time yet. On two previous occasions I’ve started blubbing while on the sauce. Next, on Easter Sunday, I walked down by road to the village of Lithines for dinner with friends. While there I had a beer before dinner and some white wine with it. When the two couples there proposed playing cards I had to politely excuse myself (too much history of card games with Caroline and others). I walked back to Papagianades and with little regard for past experience polished off half a bottle of bourbon and topped that off with some raki.

The next day was a write-off. I felt very ill and depressed and was even incapable of going for a walk. The hangover and depression then lasted most of the following day but dissipated by evening. I should have heeded this warning.

On the Wednesday I went down to the kafenion to use the Internet where I drank a half litre carafe of white wine and ate mezes. Returning home I then dropped in on my Belgian neighbour and had a bottle of retsina and topped off with more white wine before stumbling home to bed.

I woke at 5.00AM deeply depressed and with seemingly no resistance to some thoroughly vicious and self-destructive part of my mind hauling up for my inspection ... well ... you know. I think it was at about 6.00AM when I started crying and it lasted for 3 hours. Did you know that grief can be an actual physical pain? It’s like you’ve been punched hard in the guts and something has burst, causing a fluid build-up and an intense cramping. The only relief from this seems to be through your tear ducts, and they’re just not big enough. Oh, and I spent the rest of the day wishing I was dead, but aware that I only needed to hold on for a day or so for things to get better.

Subsequently I made a deal with my Greek neighbour (Anna who is teaching me Greek) to lay off the booze for 2 weeks, else I have to pay her €20. The fact that I will probably save much more than that over two weeks of abstinence is irrelevant, it’s the commitment that counts. So no more alcohol for Mr Cry-Baby; it is now the improbable masses of teabags I guiltily smuggle out of the house, rather than the empty bottles.