Saturday, August 29, 2015

Self Examination

It has been my experience that a person’s surroundings often reflect the state of their mind. When I worked in engineering (on a milling machine) those with the muckiest work benches scattered with oily tools and swarf were the slowest and most untidy workers. I always spent time cleaning down my bench and my milling machine, and I still worked faster than others. Tidy mind; tidy surroundings.

Today I cleaned my house because sometimes if you tidy your surroundings it helps to tidy your mind. Recently I experienced a disfunction of my mind I’d never had before. I’m not going to go into much detail but it stemmed from low self-esteem, low self-worth. It scared me and I hated myself for it. This wasn’t me and I was baffled by it — looking for excuses.

A piece of the puzzle fell into a place for me today when I remembered something a friend said, while drunk and upset recently. This person said, ‘I don’t know who I am anymore.’ I realised then that this applied to me too. Why should I have low self-esteem and self-worth? I am, by whatever measure you care to use, a success. I am fit, healthy and strong. I can’t recollect anything I’ve tried to do that I’ve failed at.

And of course the explanation is there in my recent past. When I watched my wife die of bowel cancer, I could do nothing but offer the support I could. But nothing I could do stopped the process. Nothing I found on the Internet, no fucking supplements, no miracles, nothing hard work could solve. I think it was then that I lost sight of who I am. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

It’s time to find myself and kick myself up the arse.

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.