Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The last one

There is a cartoon on Facebook – two aliens in a flying saucer looking down at earth way beneath them where it would seem all hell has broken out and the one is saying to the other, “As far as I can tell they’re fighting over which religion is the most peaceful.”
 This dear loyal readers and others is my last Blog. I have written almost 800 of them and it seems to me my choice of subjects is extremely limited; limited that is to what, as Frank Moque would say, the subjects that cause me to ‘rant yet again.’ By the way Frank, congratulations on becoming a Chelsea Pensioner.
Chris said to me the other day, why don’t I write about pleasant things, nice things, instead of mounting my soap box and gong on ad nauseum, but life isn’t about all things bright and beautiful as that rather stupid hymn says ignoring, as it does, nature red in tooth and claw and assorted horrors, and every day new stories emerge for me to have another rant over, the things about which I feel so strongly; man’s cupidity, stupidity, cruelty, ignorance and superstition in myth, mystery and magic, and the problem of over population and the destruction of the world’s natural resources. There you go, count them on the fingers of one hand. Looking back I find basically that is it. There are exceptions of course but they would appear to be few and far between. So…
What for example to you make of a fourteen year old girl being shot because she wanted to be educated? What is the religious mind-set behind this viciousness or is it merely a question of power? What do you make of albinos in Africa being murdered for their body parts to make magic muti? What do you make of the slaughter of elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns, the first for money, the second in the belief that they have magical medicinal powers? What do you make of the decimation of that wonderful creature the gorilla for bush-meat? What do you make of small children being raped in the belief that it is a cure for AIDS? What do you make of gays being tortured and murdered by vigilantes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan? What do you make of Protestant versus Catholic in Northern Ireland? Or Shia versus Sunni in the Middle East? Or the Israel/Palestinian problem? The hatred that engenders? What d you make of American fundamentalists who believe everything in the Bible and deny evolution despite all the proof to the contrary? What do you make of Islamists in Mali destroying ancient shrines as being idolatrous but, worse, buying young boys to become soldiers and destroying families’ lives? Or extremists in Libya destroying Sufi shrines? Or Coptic Christians in Egypt being attacked for their religion? What do you make of Sharia law with its executions, flaying, amputating, flogging? What do you make of Ghana’s witch-camps were women accused of witchcraft are forced to live the rest of their lives in virtual imprisonment? What do you make of a teenage Maldivian girl being sentenced to a hundred lashes for having sex with an older man?
So it goes on and on and on and (except for the elephants and rhinos) we haven’t even touched on the subject of money or remembered the horrors of the past.
As far as the problem of population is concerned let us consider just one country, Uganda. In 1960 the population stood at 6.8 million. In 2010 it reached 33.4 million and it is estimated that by 2060 it will have exploded to 112.6 million. Can the earth really sustain this kind of growth?
So, as it used to be said in old Hollywood travelogues, “as the sun sinks slowly in the west we say farewell to…” In this instance not a place visited but a Blogger read. There will be no more.
Thank you for being with me so long.    Glyn.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The downside

The downside. Even paradise has to have some disadvantages. Who wants to spend eternity listening to ruffled feathers, hallelujahs and everlasting twanging harps? So – Firstly, corruption. This is a real bugbear but is Greece any different from anywhere else? Name me a country free of corruption. Even communist countries, China, Vietnam, are grappling with it. Don’t know about North Korea but who knows anything much about that strange Alice in Wonderland. In South Africa it now seems to be a cause for murder. A great deal of the aid donated by richer countries to the poorer ends up in individual offshore bank accounts, or possibly returns to the country of origin in the shape of extremely expensive property purchases. Perhaps the difference with Greece is that it is a way of life, affecting not only the high and mighty, but the lowly. It is called the fakelos – the envelope – and the fakelos will expedite things and solve your little problem in a flash. But there again, is Greece all that different? I remember in Liberia I wanted to make a telephone call to London and all attempts from the hotel were a waste of time – sorry, sir, all lines are busy. So I had to go down to the exchange, slip the operator a bung and was through in seconds. There will be a cure for the common cold before corruption is finally defeated.
Greece borrowed a great deal of money from Germans bankers. What was the money for? To purchase warplanes, helicopters, tanks, submarines, none of which the country wanted or needed. How were Siemens, Krupps and any other supplier paid? With their own money of course; which leaves Greece paying a great deal of interest. And why were these expensive and unnecessary items ordered in the first place? Well, I don’t know how true it is but the story goes that the German manufacturers supplied certain Greek individuals involved with quite substantial bribes. That, if true, as it very well maybe, is corruption on a grand scale.
So what other drawbacks are there? Litter! It seems Greeks simply do not care how they littler their streets and their beautiful countryside. It is a gigantic problem. The authorities do there best to counter the positive tsunami of litter and fly-tipping, but again it would appear to be a hopeless battle. In Athens the bins are cleared every night and even here on Crete our bins are emptied twice a week. Before the advent of the supermarket and mass packaging the problem was not so acute as most of the rubbish the Cretans discarded was biodegradable. The tourist season doubles the problem of course and so has the influx of expats over their last five or so years. On an island where and how do you get rid of all that rubbish? But it is not just litter. I know I’ve ranted on about this before but the graffiti is everywhere and appalling and is sheer unsightly vandalism. But again what city escapes this mindless crap? There are street artists of course but that is a different thing altogether and their work can brighten up an otherwise dull environment.
Smoking. Greeks are tobacco addicts and for the most part in many enclosed places are taking absolutely no notice of the law on smoking.
Unemployment. Because of the depression over the last few years, made even more acute by Greece’s debts and the savings demanded by the bankers, it is reckoned that 50% of those under 25 are unemployed. In the IKA building in Souda where I go for my monthly lung check-up, just inside the main doors there is an area behind a counter and glass partition where five girls were employed. One of their jobs was to make future appointments with the various doctors and apartments. Last week the office was empty and Doctor Vulgarides informed us they had been told one night to leave and not come back.  I always felt IKA was overstaffed but multiply that by every IKA office and what do you get? These girls are hardly likely in the current climate to find work elsewhere. They are now unemployed, on the dole, not paying any tax, and what does this do to for the overstretched Greek economy? Appointments are now made by telephone.
The big problem is the antiquated system of bureaucracy. Despite the use of computers everything is still also written out by hand in ledgers that could have come out of a Dickens novel and everything is copied and copied and copied and goes from one department to another to be approved and stamped. Greece uses as much paper in a week as would take the Brazilian rain forest years to replace.
Taxes – the less said about the Greek tax system the better. Even the taxman doesn’t understand it and the rules seem to change on a weekly basis. It would take a Blog by itself to try and navigate the maze. Everyone in Greece has a tax number and you can’t lift a finger or twitch a muscle but the taxman wants to know about it though people, especially professionals, have been getting away with murder for years. Like doctors whose returns are put at 12000euro when in fact their income is probably closer to 50000. Every financial transaction according to law requires a certifiable receipt. Pull the other one. Let me just say finally that the system militates against any form of entrepreneurship. Friends bought a small hotel in Georgeopoli and were busy renovating (spending a lot of money in the process) ready for their first season when they were landed with a tax demand for 3000euro. Why? When they hadn’t even opened and started to earn? That’s the law. Someone else told us the other day that she was tired and would like to close her business but couldn’t afford to as, if she did, she would immediately be landed with a tax bill of 10000euro. See what I mean? Why? It’s the law.
Rip-off merchants. Taxi drivers seem to come in for the most flak here but, again I ask, is Greece any different from anywhere else? Douglas and I were well and truly ripped off by a taxi driver in Italy.

Can the politicians of the EU really be so blind as not to see that the way they are going about things is wrong wrong wrong? In Xania, two of the main tourist shopping streets are devastated. In one thirteen shops have closed and in the other fourteen. Again I ask what does this do for the Greek economy.
Well, I suppose there is nothing new about this situation. Other countries (including Germany I might add) have experienced exactly the same circumstances before now and pulled themselves out of the mire. I am sure Greece will do the same.
There is a very old folk song (these songs are called rebetika) the song is ‘Greece will never die’ and I firmly believe that to be true.

Friday, October 12, 2012


It occurred to me that some women who reach the apex of political power bring down upon themselves either distrust, ridicule, or downright hatred. There are a great many women leaders, presidents or prime ministers one never, or hardly ever, hears of; but here I am thinking in particular of the giants, Mrs Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, Golda Meir, Benazir Bhutto, What got me thinking on these lines was Lewis rushing to the defence of Gauleiter Merkel who, as head of the troika, has certainly earned for herself the distrust if not the hatred of the Greeks. Whatever her true feelings are towards Greece she gives, and has in turn always given the distinct impression that she hates Greece and the Greek people. Of course I don’t personally know the woman and I can only go by the news I receive via the media. If I do her a disservice I can only apologise. Her quick visit to Greece was not received quietly.
Maybe she’s a wee bit worried that Germany will at last be called upon to make just reparations for the horrors of the occupation in WW2, Greece being the only occupied country that has never received compensation.
But let us try and get rid of some of the fallacies about Greece that seem to circulate in the outlook of people and the media of Germany, the UK, and others further afield. Having lived here for sixteen years and loving the country I am sometimes totally gobsmacked at the stories that circulate in the international press.

1) Greece is a third world country. Wrong. Greece might be bankrupt but it is far too cultured to ever be considered a third world country, not in any sense.

2) Greece, Athens in particular, is dangerous. When Athens hosted the Olympic Games (hardly the effort of a third world country) I am led to believe Australian newspapers advised their readers not to go because of the danger they would face as though Greece was some sort of Afghanistan.  They thus robbed the event of many a potential visitor. Athens, until fairly recently, was a city in which one never felt threatened (except for pickpockets, the bane of any large city) and we have never felt threatened there in any way. I have felt threatened in London, in Glasgow, in Leeds, in Manchester, in Liverpool, in Bradford, but never in Athens. Unfortunately times have changed with the advent of so much hardship which has led to an increase in crime but that was inevitable and the city is still possibly one of the safest on earth.

3) Greek food is oily and the choice is limited. Nonsense. The Mediterranean diet has been proved to be the healthiest and, as for variety, I have tasted some of the most delicious lip-smacking tongue-tingling food in restaurants here. Agreed tourist restaurants all do seem to have the same menu but not all restaurants are tourist orientated.        

4) Greeks demonstrate and riot at the drop of a hat. Well, didn’t I hear about some pretty hefty rioting in the UK recently? And countries like France also seem prone to this phenomenon. Rioting has been going on for centuries and the Greeks are no better or worse than anyone else. Think of the most recent rioting in Bangladesh. Also, although the news gives a completely different impression, when rioting does take place it is confined to a very small area and except for the wanton damage caused to buildings and businesses in that area, no one in their right senses has to be involved or affected by it.

5) This one is the humdinger. Greeks are the laziest people on earth. This just couldn’t be further from the truth. Greeks are the hardest working.  In order to make ends meet many have two or more jobs and work hours that British workman would riot over if expected to do the same. And, talking of hard work, try joining in the olive harvest. I tried it for one day and it nearly killed me.

It is highly unfortunate and uncalled for that UK banks and newspapers put out these stories: don’t holiday in Greece, you won’t be able to get your money out of the bank, there is a food shortage, etcetera, all if it total nonsense but it has meant that Greece, relying as it does to some extent on tourism, has seen the figures this year down by something like 20%.  That’s a great help in bad times. Everyone suffers as a result. Thanks a lot.

Okay, so okay, what is the downside? Next time.v

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Taking offence

It would seem Muslims are not the only ones to take offence at anything they consider derogatory to their religion. Christians ain’t that far behind. Admittedly they don’t go in for mob violence so much but it still doesn’t take a lot to light the fuse. In Pakistan an eleven year old retarded girl was in danger of her life from the mob until protected because they accused her of blasphemy. Now a Greek man has been arrested accused of “malicious blasphemy and insulting religion.” He was arrested by the cybercrime police. What was his blasphemy? On Facebook he took a dig at a deceased Orthodox monk. Under the Greek penal code anyone who publicly and maliciously blasphemes God or the Orthodox Church or any other religion tolerated in Greece can be imprisoned for up to two years. Have the cybercrime police nothing better to do? And how do you blaspheme God if you don’t believe in God?
US nuns, who have come under fire from the Vatican, say they will hold further talks with church leaders but will not "compromise their mission". The Vatican has said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (?) violated church teaching on birth control and homosexuality, among other issues. Church officials have appointed three US bishops to oversee and overhaul of their organisation. "Dialogue on doctrine is not going to be our starting point," Sister Farrell said. "Our starting point will be about our own life and about our understanding of religious life." A Vatican report accused the nuns of adopting "certain radical feminist themes". The nuns, who say they have been unjustly criticised, returned to the US from Rome at the end of the talks to decide what to do next. They know they have the support of many ordinary Catholics in the US, who have been organising vigils outside churches. After the report was released, there were protests outside the Vatican embassy in Washington, and over a hundred members of the US Congress sponsored a resolution to commend the nuns for their service. Just as well the Inquisition no longer exists – or does it?
A theatre in the south Russian city of Rostov has dropped a production of Jesus Christ Superstar after protests by Orthodox Christians. A Russian company was due to stage the rock opera at the Rostov Philharmonic this month. Protesters had complained the opera projected the "wrong" image of Christ. News of the cancellation baffled members of the cast and caused indignation among commentators wary of Church interference in public life.
Local Russian Orthodox protesters lodged their complaint with prosecutors in Rostov-on-Don, citing a "new law protecting the rights of believers", they described the musical as a "profanation" and said any such production should be submitted to the Russian Orthodox Church for approval. It is unclear to which law the protesters were referring. The lower house of the Russian parliament is currently considering a bill which would make it a crime to offend the "religious feelings of citizens." Religious sensitivities became a real political issue in Russia this year with the prosecution and jailing of three punk musicians, from the band Pussy Riot, for performing a political protest song inside a Moscow cathedral. (You have to admit that was rather asking for trouble.)
The award-winning rock opera has been performed across the world, with several film versions produced. Russian theatres have been staging it for more than two decades.
You really do have to be careful as to what you post on Facebook. Back to the mob. Muslims protesters have attacked Buddhist villages in Bangladesh after an image said to show a burnt Koran was posted. Witnesses said angry crowds set fire to homes and temples in the Cox's Bazar district, forcing families to flee. The man accused of posting the image is in protective custody. Police say he was tagged in the photo but did not post it himself. Buddhists in the area said their possessions were stolen before their homes were destroyed.
"Before they set fire to my home, they looted everything," a resident said. "They took our possessions, money, gold and even computers. Then they torched the house. I am now living under open sky."
Hundreds of protesters are said to have rampaged through Buddhist neighborhoods, smashing statues, burning down monasteries and attacking houses. The violence spread to the outskirts of the port city of Chittagong, where a Hindu temple was also attacked.
Well, well, who would have believed it? What will the religious get up to next?

Monday, October 8, 2012


Some quaint or interesting snippets about sects.
Four members of a breakaway Muslim sect in Russia's Tatarstan region have been charged with cruelty against children for allegedly keeping them underground. Police discovered 27 children and 38 adults living in catacomb-like cells in an eight-level underground bunker. The sect's elderly leader, Faizrakhman Sattarov, had reportedly wanted to build his own Islamic caliphate beneath the ground. The sect was uncovered during an investigation into recent attacks on Muslim clerics in Tatarstan, a mainly Muslim region on the River Volga. According to the Russian website ‘Islam News,’ Mr. Sattarov, 83, in the mid-1960s, after interpreting sparks from a trolleybus cable as a divine light from, God declared himself an Islamic prophet.
Nineteen under-age children were removed by the Russian authorities. Officials said the children, aged between one and 17 years, had never left the compound, gone to school or been treated by a doctor, and had rarely seen the light of day. Sattarov and his followers began to shun the outside world. Only a few sect members were allowed to leave the community to work as traders at a local market. (And presumably to do the shopping with the money they made. After all, even a prophet has to eat.)
The cramped cells descend on eight levels under a decrepit, three-storey brick house on a 700 sq m (7,530 sq ft) plot of land. The house was built illegally and will be demolished, local police were quoted as saying. What were the toilet facilities I wonder? A prophet has to evacuate his bowels and empty his bladder like everybody else.
Members of an Amish breakaway group in Ohio have been found guilty of hate crimes for forcibly cutting the beards and hair of community members. The 16 defendants - six women and 10 men, including four sons of Samuel Mullet the leader face 10 years or more in jail over the incidents, prompted by a dispute over religious differences. Prosecutors said the victims' hair was cut because it has spiritual significance in the Amish faith. Defence lawyers argued the attacks did not amount to hate crimes but were incidents of internal family disputes. It’s a long long story involving violence and oddball punishments like men being forced to sleep in chicken coops and it only becomes more and more ridiculous.
Back to the main stream: Roman Catholic priests have read out a letter from the leader of the Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, in each of the Church's parishes in Scotland, criticising the Scottish government for plans to introduce gay marriage, trying, as he puts it to change what he considers to be the only legitimate definition of marriage - the lifelong union of a man and a woman. The letter also announces the launch of a National Commission for Marriage and the Family to co-ordinate a campaign against gay marriage. It says: "We reaffirm before you all the common wisdom of humanity and the revealed faith of the Church that marriage is a unique life-long union of a man and a woman." In March, Cardinal O'Brien described gay marriage as a "grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right". This from a celibate (and what could be more unnatural than that?) of whom one has to ask if he has ever been in love, ever been one to one close to another human being rather, than his idea of god and his Christian beliefs, right or wrong?
The operative words above are ‘common wisdom of humanity.’ Boy, does that cover a wide field, there simply ain’t no such animal and, if you don’t believe me, comment on this Blog, analyzing ‘common wisdom’ and telling me exactly what it is. Then there is ‘the revealed faith of the church’ and ‘universally accepted human right,’ both statements as invalid as ‘human wisdom.’ And finally ‘life-long’ which these days doesn’t seem to amount to diddly-squat with a great many as the divorce courts will testify.
What the good cardinal fails to understand is that marriage was not created by Judeo-Christianity or Islam. It existed long before, as did same sex marriage which was, for example, quite common in Rome or so I am led to believe, and Greece? Where even if it wasn’t called marriage per se it did consist of and was accepted as the union of two of the same sex.
It all boils down to ignorance fear and hatred of which ignorance is probably the worst.v

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Well who would have believed it? This is Blog number 550. I don’t know how many good folk read them, probably no more than a handful, but I write them for my pleasure if nothing else, even if I haven’t really anything worthwhile to say. Douglas says one day he is going to edit them. Well, his task just grows bigger and bigger especially if I should reach 600!
I have at last joined Facebook (or have I already mentioned this?) and my list of friends grows and grows. I am quite amazed how many from more than twenty odd years ago have been in touch. It does seem to me though that some people use Facebook purely as a personal bulletin board with comments that are not all that interesting except maybe to a small inner circle.
Filming – Chris and Douglas have been involved in the making of a commercial for INKA, a large supermarket chain. The actual filming round and about our area of the woods took only two days though the two of them were busy a long time beforehand sussing out locations, props, etcetera. Mind you, most of the props in the end came from our house. We were denuded of Victorian knick-knacks, gimcracks asnd gewgaws: plates, bowls, jugs, vases, cutlery, stools, baskets trays, and even garden ornaments. Can’t wait to see the finished result to recognise it all. We even had a cook and his assistant in our kitchen cooking for a unit of thirty people: chicken and sautéed potatoes, bean salad, coleslaw and more. Mind you, they did clean up beautifully when it was all over and after it was all over Chris and Douglas were both totally exhausted. I said I don’t really know how the commercial would have been made without them. Knowing the Greeks it would have been of course but it would have been a different kettle of fish that’s for sure. Douglas is the doyen of production managers but it took every bit of effort to keep the unit on track. Greeks tend to be a little on the haphazard side even when they agree with each other and the director tended to change his mind and want something else with every set-up. He is, in Douglas’s words, too much of a perfectionist but he is a bloody good director as his work on ‘The Island’ only goes to prove. If there was any chance of my writing a screenplay that actually stood a chance of being produced I would be more than happy to leave it in his hands.
The neighbours were agog with all the coming and going and the aftermath is that we have a kitchen and a fridge stuffed with euros worth of food, some of which has already been given away as we will never finish it all. There are melons, apples, oranges, grapes by the kilo, olive oil, about three dozen eggs, and a veritable mountain of cheeses, some in a jar of olive oil.
A short while ago, to follow in the wake of Chris’s commercial, Douglas was roped in to do another and, from what I’ve heard of that, I simply can’t wait to see it.
Retirement? Forget it. In fact Chris has been trying to do far too much (a concert was mooted for November but we insisted he put it off till the New Year) and right now he is going to be booted off to the Athens flat for a well earned rest.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Further to a previous Blog: after writing it I read about The Hubble Space Telescope producing the most extraordinary views of the Universe to date. Called the Extreme Deep Field, the picture captures a mass of galaxies stretching back almost to the time when the first stars began to shine. This view required Hubble to stare at a tiny patch of sky for more than 500 hours to detect all the light.
“It's a really spectacular image,” said Dr Michele Trenti, a science team member from the University of Cambridge. “We stared at a patch of sky the size of the moon for about 22 days, and obtained a very deep view of the distant Universe and how galaxies looked in their infancy."
The Extreme Deep Field will become a tool for astronomy. The objects embedded in it can be followed up by other telescopes. It should keep scientists busy for years, enabling them to study the full history of galaxy formation and evolution.
Data acquired in 2003 and 2004 saw the telescope burrow into a small area of space in the Constellation Fornax (The Furnace). Again, it necessitated many repeat observations, and revealed thousands of galaxies, both near and far, making it the deepest image of the cosmos ever taken at that time. Hubble helped astronomers calculate the age of the universe, about 13.7 billion years old. (Tell that to the creationists.) The Hubble telescope was carried into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle. It has taken more than 2,000 separate exposures over 10 years using its two main cameras - the Advanced Camera for Surveys, installed by astronauts in 2002, and the Wide Field Camera 3, which was added to the observatory during its final servicing in 2009. To see what it does, Hubble has to reach beyond the visible into the infrared. It is only at longer wavelengths of light that some of the most distant objects become detectable. Of the more than 5,000 galaxies in the XDF, one of them  is a candidate for the most distant galaxy yet discovered. If this is confirmed, it means it is being seen just 460 million years after the Universe's birth in the Big Bang. Scientists time that event to be 13.7 billion years ago.
Until that corroboration, another of the image objects probably holds the record. This galaxy is seen as it was 600 million years after the Big Bang.
But as remarkable as the XDF is, it is a prelude for an even deeper Hubble view. A team led from Caltech (US) and Edinburgh University (UK) has acquired more than 100 hours of additional observations, doubling the exposure time in the all-important near infrared wavebands made possible. The expectation is that it will contain galaxies even closer to the Big Bang. To see the first starlight in the Universe will most likely require Hubble's successor. The James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2018, will carry a much larger mirror and even more sensitive instruments.
It simply boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


“How much could taxes be raised without triggering mass protest? How tightly could imports be squeezed without precipitating a collapse in production? How far could wages be reduced without provoking labour unrest?” Greece 2012? No, Germany 1923. Take note Gauleiter Merkel, it could happen to you again. It has happened time after time. There simply is nothing new and history repeats itself. After World War One every country involved was in debt up to their collective eyebrows. After the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the following Great Depression it took a long time, some pretty hefty loans and, hard work for currencies to be stabilised. And who pulled the strings? Why, no one else but the bankers of course, four men in particular! I learn all this from a fascinating, and rather frightening book, titled “Lords of Finance” by Liaquat Ahamed.
The blurb on the back cover of the book reads. “In Lords of Finance we meet these men – the four bankers who truly broke the world. Their names were lost to history, their lives and actions forgotten, until now. Ahamned tells their story in vivid and gripping detail, in a timely and arresting reminder that individuals – their ambitions, limitations, and human nature – lie at the very heart of global tragedy.
And what have modern bankers been up to? Apart from paying themselves enormous bonuses of course and being pulled out of the mire of their own making by government money?
Money is the root of all evil. It is a pity the fat cats of this world who in their insatiable greed want more and more, legally or illegally, and who cling on to their treasures no matter what can’t see the harm they do. This book is a must read, but don’t take it to bed with you. It could give you nightmares.
American friends have asked solicitously whether the situation in Greece has affected us and, fortunately, the answer is it hasn’t impinged on us yet to the extent it has affected the Greeks. The price of goods has rocketed of course. Greece is no longer that inexpensive country we first knew. The price of petrol at nearly 2euro a litre is partly to blame as is VAT at 23% and god alone knows what price heating oil is going to be this winter. One is going to have to be extremely abstemious and hope the winter won’t be as bad as the last. We don’t eat out nearly as much as we used to and that applies to a lot of people so restaurants suffer because of it. Though prices in restaurants seem to be pretty stable it’s obviously more economical to eat at home and eating out has become a treat. We’re fortunate in that our income is in sterling but, even so, we do still have to be careful. We see shops and business folding every day and the politicians like the ostrich with their heads in the sand. Okay, okay, I know ostriches don’t actually do that but it is a good description of those who live in an ivory tower and refuse to face reality.

PS: In the September issue of Opera magazine there is an advertisement for a competition – a new opera preferably with a GLBT subject -$20000 prize money and guaranteed performance so I wrote a libretto based on the life of the Baron Jacques D’Adelswärd Fersen, a rare and exotic bloom indeed. There is plenty of information about him on the internet and there has been at least one novel written – “Exile of Capri” by Roger Peyrefitte. The only problem is I can’t find a composer and, if I should find one, could he undertake to write a full length opera in six months? Submission date 29th March. I must admit an advertisement in September hasn’t given much time although it is not quite as bad as some Greek ads I’ve seen for events that give no time at all to attend. Anyway, if anyone knows a composer willing to undertake such a massive task please let me know but time is running out fast.