Thursday, January 30, 2014

Poor Justin Bieber – ought one to describe as poor someone so young, so rich, with  a world-wide following horde of screaming adoring fannettes? Alas, is it yet another case of fame striking when too young and in consequence the lad unable to cope going off the rails? Despite his adoring fans he seems with his behaviour to have got up the nose with a number of folk who have been deriding him both as a person and for his talent. For one thing it would seem there is a deep suspicion, whatever the reason, that he is gay and won’t admit it. Well, if that’s the case, who cares? Though the “girlie” tag isn’t exactly flattering. Is he a boy or is he a girl? Is he Justin or is he Justine? If he is gay and came out he would probably have another million fans. However, whatever, whichever, it would seem fame has gone to his head as well as drugs and haven’t we seen it all before? Having never heard him sing I wouldn’t know if he is talented or not and despite Oscar Wilde’s adage that the only bad publicity is no publicity there is a limit to be drawn before the crash comes. Phew! What a collection of clichés.

“Money money money! Money makes the world go round.”  I wonder how many songs have been written about money. Correct me if I’m wrong but I bet there hasn’t been one about the adverse aspects of money apart from the itch to have it of course. Well dip me in shit and candy me over as one of my students used to say, whoever would have thought it? – “Cashgate,” the biggest financial scandal in Malawi's history, has affected the country's relations with donors and caused outrage among Malawians.
Allegations of the massive looting of government money became public following the shooting of the finance ministry's then budget director Paul Mphwiyo in September 2013.
Just days before, a junior civil servant was allegedly found with bales of cash totalling more than $300,000 in the boot of his car. So just tick off Malawi as yet another African country where billions in foreign aid has been lining the pockets of crooked politicians and government officials- that is if it isn’t being used to buy Kalashnikovs and other essential military hardware to continue the seemingly never ending game of my tribe is better than your tribe and my religion is better than yours, while people living in justified terror are forced to flee their homes swelling the world’s refugee crises. There are cities of opulence such as Abidjan, capital of the Cote D’voire with magnificent hotels, five star restaurants and, when I was there, shops where women could buy the latest Paris fashions, luxury goods, and French patisserie was flown in fresh daily. But it is surrounded, as so many major centres are, by slums and tin shanties and further afield people sill live in mud huts as they have done for centuries; have no access to clean water, electricity, hygienic facilities, and only the most basic of medical aid, if that, and should the crops fail are likely to face starvation, but western countries keep on sending aid which never reaches them. Colonialism is history, Africa’s a big girl now; she must stand on her own two feet, she can no longer blame the colonists for her troubles. Those wily oriental gentlemen the Chinese have much the better idea, instead of sending money to miraculously disappear they build railways, are granted mining concessions, open any number of shops in which to sell cheap Chinese goods etcetera which may help Africa somewhat but helps  the Chinese more.
And now, alas, the news from South Africa, the one country one felt might not go the same way, at least not quite so quickly, has fallen into the same trap. Many years ago Alan Paton wrote a novel about South Africa called “Cry The Beloved Country.” It was a terrible time for the African and the book, also adapted into film, television, and theatre, achieved great acclaim but a book with the same title could be written now, though with a different cry.  “The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that things are not mended again.”

Monday, January 27, 2014

Modern Banking

If you were a bank in serous trouble how much would you think of paying your CEO? J.P.Morgan is the bank in question and the lucky recipient of $20000000 is chief executive Jamie Dimon. Little wonder that half the world’s wealth is in the hands of no more than 85 people. Is the economic crises over then? Like hell it is and banks, despite being mainly the cause of it all in the first place still, are glad-handing and paying out ridiculous bonuses to people who obviously do not deserve them already having more money than they need-far too much in fact and in a year when the bank’s income is down substantially. Various scandals are involved of course but that’s banking, who’s surprised?
Some HSBC customers have been prevented from withdrawing large amounts of cash because they could not provide evidence of why they wanted it.
They were stopped from withdrawing amounts ranging from £5,000 to £10,000.
HSBC admitted it has not informed customers of the change in policy, which was implemented in November.
Stephen Cotton, from Worcestershire, went to his local HSBC branch this month to withdraw £7,000 from his instant access savings account to pay back a loan from his mother.
A year before, he had withdrawn a larger sum in cash from HSBC without a problem.
But this time it was different, He wrote to complain to HSBC about the new rules and also that he had not been informed of any change.
“When presented with the withdrawal slip, they declined to give us the money because we could not provide them with a satisfactory explanation as to what the money was for. They wanted a letter from the person involved."
Mr Cotton says the staff refused to tell him how much he could have: "So I wrote out a few slips. I said, 'Can I have £5,000?' They said no. I said, 'Can I have £4,000?' They said no. And then I wrote one out for £3,000 and they said, 'OK, we'll give you that.' "
He asked if he could return later that day to withdraw another £3,000, but he was told he could not do the same thing twice in one day. He wrote to complain to HSBC about the new rules and also that he had not been informed of any change.

“As this was not a change to the Terms and Conditions of your bank account we had no need to pre-notify customers of the change”

Mr Cotton cannot understand HSBC's autocratic attitude: "I've been banking in that bank for 28 years. They all know me in there. You shouldn't have to explain to your bank why you want that money. It's not theirs, it's yours."
Peter, from Wiltshire, had a similar experience.
He wanted to take out £10 000 cash from HSBC, some to pay to his sons and some to fund his long-haul travel plans.
Peter phoned up the day before to give HSBC notice and everything seemed to be fine.
The next day he got a call from his local branch asking him to pay his sons via a bank payment and to provide booking receipts for his holidays. Peter did not have any booking receipts to show.
The following day he spoke to HSBC again and this time, having examined his account, it said he could withdraw the £10,000.
Belinda is another customer who was initially denied her cash, in her case to pay her builder. She was told she had to provide the builder's quote.
HSBC has said that following customer feedback, it was changing its policy: "We ask our customers about the purpose of large cash withdrawals when they are unusual and out of keeping with the normal running of their account. Since last November, in some instances we may have also asked these customers to show us evidence of what the cash is required for."
"The reason being we have an obligation to protect our customers, and to minimise the opportunity for financial crime. However, following feedback, we are immediately updating guidance to our customer facing staff to reiterate that it is not mandatory for customers to provide documentary evidence for large cash withdrawals, and on its own, failure to show evidence is not a reason to refuse a withdrawal. We are writing to apologise to any customer who has been given incorrect information and inconvenienced."
Other banks were asked other banks what their policy is on large cash withdrawals.
They all said they reserved the right to ask questions about large cash withdrawals.
But none of them said they would require evidence of what the money was being used for before paying out.
Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP for Clacton, is alarmed by the new HSBC policy: "All these regulations which have been imposed on banks allow enormous interpretation. It basically infantilises the customer. In a sense your money becomes pocket money and the bank becomes your parent."
But Eric Leenders, head of retail at the British Bankers Association, said banks were sensible to ask questions of their customers: "I can understand it's frustrating for customers. But if you are making the occasional large cash withdrawal, the bank wants to make sure it's the right way to make the payment."
Staff have been informed it is not mandatory for customers to provide documentary evidence for large cash withdrawals, and on its own, failure to show evidence is not a reason to refuse a withdrawal. We are writing to apologise to any customer who has been given incorrect information and inconvenienced."

Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP for Clacton, is alarmed by the new HSBC policy: "All these regulations which have been imposed on banks allow enormous interpretation. It basically infantilises the customer. In a sense your money becomes pocket money and the bank becomes your parent."

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Wow! Seventy three pounds of marmalade all labelled, and Douglas being Douglas they’re not just your Tom, Dick and Harry of marmalades but come in any number of exotic assorted flavours. The last half dozen jars are labelled Rahat Lakum flavoured with rose liquor and parfait amour. And just n case it is thought extravagance beyond belief the remains of the rose liquor has been lurking in a dark corner of the booze cupboard since I bought it when first arriving in Crete when the Greek currency was still the drachma. It was a very small hardware shop long since closed down the owners (I never made out whether they were husband and wife or brother and sister though she was a wee bit draconian in manner and he rather timorous) being too old to carry on, in fact who must be dead by now or at least in their late nineties. Can’t remember now how much that dusty old bottle cost but it must have been pre-war. This was the lady who, when I went in to buy a bucket said, “You want to buy Cuba?” as I used the accent in the wrong place – koùvas/kouvàs. You have to be so careful with accented languages.
Malàka certainly as a very different meaning to malakà.
Parfait amour and coke used to be my favourite tipple when I was at university until one night I got so legless on it I never drank it again.
Anyway, since the discovery of home-made fruit flavoured tsigouthia (raki) there’s been no more purchase of expensive commercial liquors. And as for 73 jars of marmalade a lot of it will be given away to friends, in fact the first six jars have already gone, in exchange for some olive oil from those who produce their own. I can’t remember when last we had to buy olive oil. I can’t remember whether I’ve said that before. I probably have. Memory both short and long is virtually kaput these days.
So 73 jars of marmalade are all very well but soon it will be apricot time and there is a glut every year. I’m informed there are 36 one pound jars left and plenty more where they came from as there is a shop in Rethymno that sells them very cheap. Apricots are a very versatile fruit anyway: you can eat them straight off the tree and if they have been standing in the sun the favour is wonderfully enhanced. You can make wine with them, make jam with them, use them for puddings, dry them and freeze them for winter use. But despite the myriad uses we put them to the ground beneath the tree always ends up thick with dropped fruit. Such a waste. Same with the prickly pear. Walking passed it late in the year you get the distinct whiff of a brewery.

I have a feeling I might soon have to give up Blogging on a regular basis, my fingers just can’t cope much longer with typing. You’d be surprised how long it’s taken me to write this.

Monday, January 20, 2014


To-day’s Blog is not mine. A citizen of a once beautiful and prosperous country by the name of Rhodesia wrote it to say how it is now after more than seventeen years under the Presidency of Robert Mugabe and his cronies. It is hardly an enviable record. If any of you have read this I apologise but I felt it needed a wider
audience and Cathy has most kindly given me permission to do so.

Dear Family and Friends,
> There's nothing quite like five days without electricity to remind us
> how hard our lives were during the first decade of the 21st century
> and to warn us how tenuous our grip on normality is. The prolonged
> power cut in my neighbourhood left a fridge full of mould and fruit
> flies, all the food on the compost heap and tempers frayed to breaking
> point. Add a couple of days without water to this picture and then
> decide whether to laugh or cry when you read the message that comes in
> on the cell phone from the Ministry of Health. 'Prevent diarrhoea this
> season,' it says, ' wash your hands with soap or ash under safe
> running water before eating or preparing food and after visiting the
> toilet.' Safe running water is a joke when you haven't had any water
> for a couple of days; safe food is absurd after five days without
> electricity and a fridge alive with mould.
> As each month passes since the July 2013 elections it seems we could
> so easily slide back to the way things were a decade ago and every day
> the press reports back up our fears. A Ministry of Health whose
> hospitals owe US$36 million to suppliers and yet who've only been
> allocated US$23 million in this year's budget. A Ministry of Education
> which needs US$73 million to help educate disadvantaged and vulnerable
> children but have only been allocated US$15 million for the program.
> Meanwhile the 51% compulsory indigenisation of privately owned
> businesses remains a looming threat and there is no relief or clarity
> offered by authorities. The uncertainty has left no one spending
> money, companies shrinking and more and more workers being laid off.
> Fear of being targeted in the indigenisation issue has left most
> affected people not prepared to speak out, and not even prepared to
> publicise the absurd amounts of money they're being told to pay.
> Some of these amounts include US$20 to submit the mandatory
> indigenisation forms and then US$500 for born and resident Zimbabweans
> or US$5,000 for 'foreigners' to get a 'compliance certificate.' It's
> not clear what any of this money is for, where it goes to, if it's a
> fee for not being black or if it's going to prevent you from giving up
> 51% of your own company. It seems beyond belief that people are being
> made to pay for the bureaucracy that will facilitate them losing 51%
> of their own companies because of the colour of their skin. Some
> 'indigenous' Zimbabweans seem to think that the mandatory handing over
> of a 51% shareholding of a private company is OK because they say the
> shares will be paid for. But does that make it right you ask; being
> forced to cede the majority shareholding of your own work? They have
> conveniently forgotten that farmers who bought their farms after
> Independence and then had them seized by the government, because of
> the colour of their skin, were promised compensation for fixed assets
> but fourteen years later 95% of us haven't ever received a single
> dollar for the expropriation of our homes, businesses and life's work.
>  Trying to make sense of it all I stood outside under a stormy night
> sky looking for answers. Clouds boiled overhead but every now and
> again the moon broke through. Almost full, it shed its light on the
> branches of a big Musasa tree, exposing for a moment a little grey
> owl. Querulous and quavering were the best words I could find to
> describe its strange, haunting call. It sounded so far away and was
> almost inaudible over the voices of a million crickets but in fact the
> little owl was immediately overhead. I couldn't resist a quick flash
> of the torch to see the little grey bird with its big round eyes
> staring down at me, its tail flicking in surprise, alarm or maybe just
> annoyance. Our lives and future in Zimbabwe feel very much like those
> adjectives: querulous and quavering. Until next time, thanks for
> reading, love cathy. 17th January 2014. Copyright  Cathy Buckle.
> For information on Cathy’s latest book: "CAN YOU HEAR THE DRUMS," or her
> other books about Zimbabwe: "Innocent Victims," "African Tears,"
> "Beyond Tears" and "IMIRE," or to subscribe/unsubscribe to this
> letter, please visit her website or contact

I once heard someone many years go, about to move to Rhodesia, as it was called then, say “It’s the country off the future.” What future? I shouldn’t think for a moment that Mugabe in his gilded palace gives a fig as he certainly won’t be going without electricity and water. It could all have been so different and my fears now are for South Africa where corrupt politicians have been making themselves obscenely wealthy and Zuma is showing all the signs of that megalomania to be witnessed in Robert Mugabe.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Despite opposition and outrage from conservatives, a permit to kill a rhino, one of only three permits issued yearly by Namibia, has been won at auction by a Texan for the princely sum of $350000. One of the arguments against the auction is that it might encourage other Americans who have that sort of money to pay up and kill. The current winner says that the money will go towards conservation (conservation of who I wonder) and that by killing an old bull passed his prime, one that would be likely to attack younger ones still in the sexual circuit, that also goes towards conservation. He could be right of course. What do I know abut the sex-life of the rhino? How does one know when one has passed his prime anyway? With the amount of poaching that seems to increase year by year I would have thought even three kills three too many. You would have thought with the advent of Viagra the horn worth $60000 a piece would have become obsolete, especially as its magical qualities are a myth anyway. The white rhino, of which only four remain in the entire world, is protected 24/7 by armed guards. Soon, guard or no guard, the rhino will pass into history like the unicorn. Oh, yes, didn’t you know? Once upon a time there were unicorns. Any child will tell you that and the Bible mentions them four times so there must have been. Probably left behind when Noah put up the “No Vacancies” sign or didn’t realise they hadn’t turned up.
Why is the swastika still with us and all the paraphernalia of pseudo mystic masculinity, the ubermensch, white supremacy that goes with far right thinking?? Why is so much still published and why the continued fascination on the life of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party who were nothing but a bunch of malformed, some physically, some mentally or emotionally, thieving thugs?  YouTube has any number of films, videos, showing every aspect of this period including not only the horrors of all out war but the obscene horrors of what the Nazis perpetrated, not only to the Jews, homosexuals and Gypsies in the concentration camps but wherever they were the conqueror. Is it merely the desire to have or to show superiority where none exists? Is it a matter of jealousy? With the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin it was necessary to clean up the city, removing anti-Semitism signs before foreign visitors arrived and Hitler was non too pleased when the supreme athlete, Jesse Owens, turned out to be a black American, and racism, it might be obvious to say it, still seems to be the basis of the neo-Nazi mentality, especially in America. Here in Greece our neo-Nazis, the party known as Golden Dawn are also racist but for them it is anybody who isn’t Greek. It follows the same old pattern of a pseudo-military aspect and discipline with flags showing their party symbol – not quite a swastika but it doesn’t take too much imagination to know what it means, intimidation and brutality. Stall holders of obvious foreign origin have been beaten up and their stalls destroyed. In America, a Neo-Nazi by the name of Craig Cobb, evidently from a wealthy background tried to take over the sleepy town of Leith, North Dakota, where he had been taking over properties to be distributed to his followers. He apparently expected residents to bow to the new order. He was wrong. In November, Cobb and a henchman swaggered through the town carrying shotguns and shouting obscenities. Alarmed locals called police. Both men are now in custody each facing terrorism charges and lengthy prison sentences. Nothing to be ashamed of, Mr. Cobb, you are merely following in your mentor’s footsteps though it would seem his padded cell was a bit more padded than  is usual.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Medical Musing

The question of euthanasia, like the death sentence is certainly a thorny one for many people. In the UK sufferers desperate to end their pain have gone to law only to have their plea consistently refused,  the reason given that it would be open to misuse; but then isn’t everything? I for one believe, despite the doubts as to possibly evil intent, that for humane reasons alone euthanasia should be legal and it surely can’t be long before it is. One hears tales of caring doctors who surreptitiously end patients’ lives when living for them has become a nightmare; despite the chance that in so doing they could face an accusation of murder. I would like to think that should life become unbearable I could be painlessly sent off into oblivion. It can be done. Switzerland, Holland allow it and Belgium made euthanasia legal in 2002. Now there are even discussions as to its availably for children. When many countries have come to the conclusion that euthanasia is sometimes the kindest course to take the UK will still be dithering with various factions maintaining life is precious and to end it before its natural time is both sinful of at least immoral. Suicide is no longer a crime, isn’t euthanasia the next step?
Weather records have been broken across North America, with Canada and all 50 US states experiencing freezing temperatures.
In Kentucky, an escaped prisoner turned himself in to get out of the cold while at least one polar bear at a zoo in Chicago had to be taken inside because of the plummeting temperatures.
ABC news correspondent Linzie Janis, in Buffalo in New York, told BBC News the area looked like a series of ghost towns with roads littered with overturned cars.
In Ohio worried residents took in dogs with frozen paws and people were warned that below a certain temperature the skin on their face could freeze.
This reminds me of stories one heard about prisoners in Soviet Siberian work camps who had to suffer amputation of the penis because their urine froze. True or false I’ve sometimes wondered how the Eskimo manages not only to urinate but defecate when a certain expanse of the body has to be exposed to the elements.
We cannot say we weren't warned. Most of us were born into a world containing antibiotics, so it is easy to feel they are permanent fixtures in the arsenal of medicines. In fact penicillin did not go into widespread use until the 1950s. But according to scientists and medical personal at the topmost level the golden age of antibiotics is coming to an end unless urgent action is taken. The growing threat of antibiotic resistant organisms: bacteria viruses and parasites is once again in the spotlight.The warnings actually started many years ago, more than five years for example when a strain of tuberculosis in South Africa became immune to the drugs. Whereas antibiotics have been around for less than a century, infectious agents are older than humanity, and are continually evolving.
There has also been an alarming increase in rates of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea, which is becoming more difficult to treat.
Drug companies are in it for profit so they can't be expected to spend billions and years inventing new antibiotics on which they'll never be able to recoup their investment; but the price of some modern drugs is already reaching astronomical proportions and perhaps the companies may be persuaded to go back to the lab. Medical advance simply has to keep up if possible with the evolution of other species or we might as well all just give up.
For thousands of years the Chinese, adept in the fine art of torture, held executions with the “death a thousand cuts,” an excruciatingly painful and slow way to die, the pain sometimes accentuated by the administration of certain drugs.
According to a report in a Chinese newspaper Kim Jong Un, beloved leader of North Korea has had his uncle and five accomplices executed by being thrown to 120 ravenous dogs that had not been fed for three days. Says everything you need to know about North Korea.
In Afghanistan an eleven year old girl was strapped with explosives and ordered by her family to go and blow up a police check-point. She is now in protective custody which tells you everything you need to know about the religion of peace.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

TV series

Have watched “Star Trek” 1 and 2 with the original cast and enjoyed them so the Christmas present wasn’t misjudged. Also watched “Private Schultz,” BBCTV (1981) at its very best, with Michael Elphick and the brilliant Ian Richardson absolutely superb as Major Neuheim plus a few smaller parts ending with a one liner, the very last line in the six part one hour series: “Your change, sir.”  Not an inflexion wrong, not a gesture wrong, not a note wrong, not an expression wrong, an absolute gem of a performance achieving that wonderful outcome of being both hilarious yet at the same time a real person rather than a two dimensional comic. Hats off too to Jack Pulman, most famous probably for his adaptation of “I Claudius,” for his scripts of “Private Schultz.” He died young (54) before he could see his work. I feel sure he would have been more than pleased with the final result. Not all of us can have that sort of talent but what a loss when you see some of the dross TV puts out. Words of praise too for Mr. Elphick, also for the direction by Bob Chetwyn who, when he was artistic director at Ipswich, directed the very first play of mine produced, “Oh Brother.” Over the years I sometimes wondered what had happened to him since then so was delighted to note his credit here and learn something of his career up to that point as discussed in the “extras.”
 If it is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, that there are only eight basic stories and the rest is all variation and embellishment a good example is the series “24” starring Keifer Sutherland. We have started to watch it a second time and have seen the first four in all of which the basic plot is a terrorist threat to America: an attempted assassination of the president, an unknown deadly virus, a dirty bomb, a stolen nuclear missile, and agent Jack Bauer there to sort out every one, with some assistance of course, but mainly through individual heroics. Exciting stuff, each hour ending in a cliff-hanger. The series is franchised under the wing of 20th Century Fox. I wonder if the writers have ever been paid all that is due to them.
Been a wee bit disappointed in the last two episodes of “Golden Girls.”  Temporarily out of ideas? They’ve gone from reality to fantasy and once truth or naturalism if you rather gets kicked aside it is difficult to stay with it. Like hey! We’re stuck here, dream sequence come to the rescue. Okay, all the gags are still there but that is all they are, gags. They don’t come out of a natural situation. For example, it’s Christmas time and Blanche brings a new found conquest back to the house. He is wearing a Santa Claus costume and Rose immediately flies at him accusing him of dereliction of duty. He should be out and about doing what Santa Claus is meant to do. Now this is not said in jest. In fact the attack is quite vituperate and suspension of disbelief goes out the widow because Rose might be a wee but slow on the uptake but she is certainly not that stupid. All her herring and down on the farm stories are wonderfully humorous and ripe for send-up though she doesn’t realise it but this kind of threatening behaviour is out of character and an immediate cut-off.  
Last Sunday Papa Spiros came around once again (Epiphany?) to bless the house. My timing was unfortunate because I was in the loo so missed out but Chris and Douglas were well sprayed with holy water and basil. Papa Spiros is very young and, to use Noel Coward’s favourite words of approval, very sweet. He is about to become a father for the second time, hoping it will be a boy. Though we are not Orthodox or members of his congregation (not even Christian for that matter) he is well aware of it. He even went especially to visit Douglas in hospital but unlike the Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists he doesn’t try ramming religion down your throat. So, if blessing our house means something to him, we wouldn’t dream of denying him.

A group, The New York-based Satanic Temple, has unveiled designs for a 7-foot-tall statue of Satan that it wants erected at the Oklahoma state Capitol. The statue features a goat-headed Satan sitting in a throne with children either side. The Satanic Temple spokesman says Oklahoma's decision to put a Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol opened the door for its statue, he says it's moving forward with plans despite the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission's decision to place a moratorium on new requests.
The commission says it's waiting until a lawsuit over the Ten Commandments has been settled

Life’s a funny old thing innit?

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Maze - some thoughts

Panos Karnezis is a Greek writer who writes quite brilliantly in English. The first book of his I read is called “Little Infamies” and I loved it. I enjoyed it so much that I went on to read his novel “The Maze” and was so intrigued and taken with the story I decided, just for the sheer joy of it, to write a full length screenplay without even thinking of such things as film rights or whether a film would ever be made. At the time that didn’t seem important. I just wanted to reproduce this wonderful story in my own way and in my own style in a different medium, just to write about all these intriguing characters., so human yet so wonderfully theatrical at the same time.
The synopsis on the book cover reads – “Set in Anatolia in 1922 The Maze is the story
Of a retreating Greek brigade that has lost its way. It is pursued by a Turkish army that seeks to avenge three years of Greek occupation. No help is forthcoming. Commanded by a brigadier with a passion for Greek mythology and morphia, the brigade’s only chance of salvation is to reach the Mediterranean coast and sail home
As the army wanders through the Anatolian desert, their internal divisions become more pronounced and their dementia more florid. Eventually they reach a small town, up until now untouched by the war, which is run by a simple minded mayor and peopled by a gallery of wonderfully strange characters. When the soldiers leave at last, a tragedy has taken place and the town has changed forever.”
A synopsis simply cannot give justice to the depth of this adventure and the characters involved: the brigadier himself, the corporal in love he thinks with a girl in Thessaloniki who he has never met and whose letters he cherishes not knowing his beloved is a middle-aged bearded communist trying to convert him to the cause,
the aide-de-camp who is also a secret communist, the chaplain with his pet dog who has to beg oil from the cook to light his votive lamps, the upper class airman who crash- lands close to the regiment’s camp and whose actions unintentionally lead to two deaths, the overworked medic, the florid French opera-singing whore who the mayor hopes to marry much to the disgust of the local schoolteacher who wants her for himself and feels stabbed in the back by a one time friend, the stray horse that shits its way to the town thus leading the soldiers to it and has, with the mayor and dignitaries  and at the mayor’s insistence, have its photograph taken by a correspondent who just happens to have a camera.
The boy scouts who, as they march out of town and out of step, are heard singing Greece shall never die.
My screenplay is full of directions as to how I would shoot the film if I were directing it. I can see it so clearly in my mind’s eye, frame by frame. Another director would of course ignore my suggestions and go his own way.
Mr. Panos’ story would make a wonderful major motion picture and is too good to be wasted. Has no one in the business thought of it? If not, why not?
If ever it is made into a film, knowing how long these things take, I doubt I’ll be around to see it, which is a matter for regret.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year

The floor of the courtyard is littered with oranges fallen before their time and the tree is still laden, as is the tree in the lower garden, and a couple of days ago Douglas had a field day resulting in seventeen pounds of mandarin marmalade. I would have preferred less marmalade and some mandarins just to eat but he cleared the tree except for half a dozen he couldn’t reach. We’ve had so much rain recently I must remind them to take a look at the avocados.
Well, or lipon as the Greeks say, here we are into 2014. As usual we didn’t stay up to watch the festivities on television. The last time Douglas and I celebrated New Year was a few years back when we were in Athens and part of the milling throng shoulder to shoulder in Kotsia Square, bands playing and at the countdown the sky ablaze with exploding fireworks.  Pickpockets must have thought all their birthdays had come at once though fortunately we weren’t tagged. One might have been given a quick brush-by but having suffered from these buggers before we made sure there was nothing to pick – nothing easily accessible anyway. A case of once bitten twice shy, or more accurately twice bitten. It’s amazing though how careless some people can be. I was sitting one day on one of the stone benches at Ommonia outside my favourite restaurant, “Neon” and I noticed a young guy who turned out to be Australian with knapsack a couple of benches off and a big, fat, juicy wallet stuck invitingly out of his back trouser pocket so I took it on myself to warn him of the danger.  Five minutes later he left with that big fat juicy wallet still there but not for much longer I reckoned.
I wonder if there was much to celebrate in Athens this time around and when, if ever, this recession is going to come to an end. For many Greeks 2014 is not going to be a good year, for so many struggling to keep their heads above water a loss in their pensions will be the last straw. Perhaps the politicians would like to tell them what they will have to live on. Here on Crete a group of ex-pats have formed a charity called “Helping Hand” to distribute food to families in need. In Athens the fascist party Golden Dawn is also distributing food but only to those who can produce Greek ID.
A petition has been started requesting the Greek government do something about saving Crete’s ancient olive trees, some of them hundreds of years old and  being indiscriminately chopped down to provide firewood for those who simply can’t afford to heat their homes any other way. As the petitioner has it – “These trees helped our parents put clothes on our backs and send us to university. It is thanks to these trees that Crete is what it is. Its cultural development is thanks to them.
Yet no one cares for these olive trees that have fed millions of people for thousands of years that have been worshipped and adored. These trees are our legacy.” She could have added “our livelihood.” Unfortunately I doubt the government can or will do anything about it.
So what would I hope for in 2014? Apart from the obvious like religious contention resulting only too often in violence, I would like there to be more awareness of human cruelty to animals, perhaps starting off with a complete worldwide banning of vivisection, the closing of zoos not up to a certain standard of welfare and a blitz on those promoting dog-fights: for this disgusting phenomenon a lengthy prison sentence, a hefty fine and the prohibition of keeping an animal for life.
There are so many many things one could wish for to make this world a better place but as the old saying has it, “If wishes were horses beggars would ride,” and all the prayers and wishing in the end isn’t gong to change a damn thing. Happy new year anyway.