He’d kept a watchful eye on the bookshop for months so far, even though there was little of intrinsic value inside. There were very few rare items, most but not everything was replaceable. Yet he knew many pages on the familiar shelves contained valuable secrets.
Experience told him where the lady proprietor often tucked away the gems and unseen he would direct determined hunters to acquire them.
The last time he ventured inside he saw only potential but now he knew lady luck waited amongst the many volumes. One day he’d benefit from his endless vigil and she’d smile on him again.
This piece was entered in the Flash Fiction Competition at Eklektos Bookshop, Elounda on Sunday 17th September.
Today I found one of my books available on a pirate site. I wrote Short Fews 1, a collection of short stories, nearly two years ago and published it on Amazon Kindle for £2.29. I have sold enough copies to buy myself a new Rolls Royce.
We all like a bargain and if we can get something for nothing, many of us will jump at the chance; I have a feeling that I wrote the book on a pirated copy of Word. I do not feel too guilty because I had a genuine copy, but when I bought a new computer it had crashed and three computers later, all licences had been used up and despite trying, nobody would put matters right...so I nicked what I had already paid for.
Many pirating sites make you subscribe to some irritating pop-ups or have a tool bar that takes over your life, so in general the pirate makes your life hell and isn’t worth the hassle. I was, though, strangely sympathetic to Pirate Bay when the authorities kept shutting them down but had never downloaded anything from them. No, my unconnected reasons go back to the 1960’s, would you believe, long before the age of computers or pirated software.
I am of an age when there was no official commercial radio in the UK and apart from the long-extinct Radio Luxembourg (208m, medium wave) that was beamed from continental Europe, pop music was only available officially and rarely on the BBC Light Programme (Radio 2 since 1968). In the early ‘60’s Pirate Radio stations (as they were named by the authorities) sprang up, the most well-known were Radio Caroline and Radio London, which broadcast from converted ships anchored offshore and beyond the law. Yes, they pirated the music and paid no royalties to the artists but many, if not most, up-and-coming pop stars’ records would never have been played by the self-serving, censoring BBC. In fact many of the top names in the pop world owe their success to the ‘pirate stations’; I and many other teenagers listened to the Pirates regularly and were bereft when on August 14th 1967 the Labour government imposed the Marine (etc) Offences Act, which closed down thirty or more stations, leaving only Radio Caroline to soldier on till in went aground on the Goodwin Sands in 1968/9. (The story of Radio Caroline was wonderfully portrayed in the film The Boat That Rocked with Bill Nighy playing the station's founder Ronan O’Reilly.) The baton was picked up by Radio Northsea International but, denied their advertising stream, they did not last. For those interested in sampling Radio Caroline today, including clips from those magical days of the 1960’s, it is available over the internet...but never will it recapture those heady free music days of my youth.
So I confess to being a thief, to listening to unlicensed music, to getting something for nothing, so I shouldn’t really complain when the impoverished download my books from a pirate site...after all I am a wealthy author who can sit and relish my Rolls Royce bought so easily with the thoughts of my mind and the actions of my hands, even if it is only a scale model in a display cabinet.
To those people that have downloaded my work for free, I hope you enjoy it, but maybe you might like to redeem yourselves a little by putting a fair review on Amazon. They do not demand that you have bought the book officially and a confession is not required.
About forty years ago I was involved in an Employment Tribunal case as a witness. I’m not so sure it wasn’t called an Industrial Tribunal, back then. Whatever it was called, the idea behind such Tribunals was that the man in the street could make a claim against his employer for acts of unfair dismissal and the such-like. I say ‘man in the street’ because in the ‘70’s men were in the street coming or going to work in industrial situations as part of a long-term need to work to raise a family, whereas women by-and-large worked in preparatory employment, preparing for marriage and raising children. Believe me, I am all for women having careers, it is their right as human beings, but bringing up the limited family of today is often a latter day decision rather than the raison d’etre of a relationship. However, now I’ve stirred up the feminine ire, I shall continue with what I really want to talk about...Employment Tribunals:
Mr Brown sat and told the Tribunal’s panel how he had been treated by his boss Mr Green; then
Mr Green gave his version of events. After a brief recess the Panel returned and gave its verdict. In most cases the combatants were content with this form of official mediation. It wasn’t mediation as we know it today, but a decision made by others to solve the impasse...simple. Well it was, but unfortunately it seems as if simple justice has been hijacked and turned into a golden goose in common with many things with monetary potential.
If you have an odd drizzly day to pass where there is nothing at the cinema or any other form of entertainment open to you, or you simply can’t afford to heat your home, why not sample the delights of an Employment Tribunal? Okay, you cannot sit there with a bag of popcorn and paper cup of coffee but if you find the right case it will be an eye opener...I commend them to you.
It will not be obvious that most of the combatants are legal professionals; but look harder and you will spot the clues...there will be solicitors sporting discreet dark suits with conservative ties or necklaces. They will have their expensive briefcases to hand and be supported by a raft of juniors pandering to their needs. In many cases there will be one or two more vocal adversaries whose patted down hair reveals the fact that they are more accustomed to wearing wigs in their normal daily roles. Huddled behind a desk you might spot the quaking form of a claimant, perhaps accompanied by an equally-quivering representative...each with real hope of achieving justice in a highly personal matter. Sadly though, both will be ill-equipped to deal with the technicalities understood and capitalised on by the various professionals at modern tribunals.
Justice today seems to be a commodity that could have a quotation on the stock exchange; it has a price which is often beyond the pockets of Joe or Josephine Public. Two years ago fees were introduced to further discourage cases coming to tribunals that were vexatious or initiated with the hope that the employer would cough-up just to avoid a tribunal. Unfortunately, these fees have caused ordinary folk to think twice about seeking justice, despite the merits of their case; that, coupled with well-versed barristers that will slit a claimant’s throat with a sharp-tongued remark, has made justice difficult to achieve.
In the coming weeks I may find myself pitted against the vested interests of the system; a claimant friend of mine, let’s call her Bella, having overcome the immediate financial penalties and natural trepidation, has nominated me to speak on her behalf. While I do my best to exhibit super-human confidence, I fear I may turn out to be just another of those quivering representatives.
I shall keep you informed about my friend’s attempt to win justice in a worthy cause against an expensive legal team funded by a global interest with a near-bottomless pit. I do not overestimate my chances; I will not attempt to cover my concerns like an aging wrinkly, slapping an expensive cosmetic upon a lost cause, but this cause is morally right and just. That is what keeps me going.
Welcome to a special post where I have the opportunity to introduce five other Greek-biased bloggers via a Christmas blog hop:
I rejoice that I live once again in a predominantly Christian country. I was born and raised in the erstwhile Christian country of England, part of the Christian union of The United Kingdom. I went to Sunday church services with my Gran, albeit I was encouraged to silent reverence during the sermon by a seemingly endless supply of hard sweets she always had to hand.
I went to Sunday School and collected big colourful stamps in a booklet, which told of the Bible stories. Later I became a choir boy in our local church, which was little more than a big shed with an altar and other accoutrements including an organ that I frequently pumped. I say frequently, even though I was only called upon to pump monthly, no, what I really mean is infrequently. Distracted, my pumping was not regular enough to maintain a constant note and stern looks from the organist were necessary to keep me heaving on the handle, which doubtless caused our choir master to consider me as a candidate for crucifixion...a latter-day martyr to Handle’s messiah.
I was confirmed into the Church of England, sang hymns in school assemblies and went carol singing as a Boys’ Brigade member in an organised group maintaining the picture-postcard traditions. I married in a large parish church by licence granted by a surrogate bishop. My two sons were christened into the Church. My parents and In-laws had Christian services on their demise, as did my brother who died accidently, aged 17.
Then I turned my back on my faith and took up residence on the ‘naughty step’. Had I stayed rooted to this haven of meditation and repentance all would have been well, but my naughtiness went roaming and I suffered roaming charges which divided our family.
So what inspired me to pen this piece? It was the entreaty of a fellow Crete-based author to contribute to a Festive Blog Hop. I mused on the word ‘festive’ and tried to remember when it became a dumbed-down euphemism for Christmas. I reflected on the continuing watering down of the term Christmas so as to appease those that do not share the faith. I considered seasonal greetings cards bearing the legend ‘Happy Holidays’ and pondered on innocent bygone days and a vanished belief that things would continue forever unchanged. In some ways this abrogation of faith has come home to roost, we do not know what we believe in; we have few anchors to hold us steady in a gathering storm.
Six years ago we moved to Crete; it was October and we had decided that we wanted solitude, but the solitude of Frangokastello was more like seclusion, I felt a bit like the hermit in ‘Life of Brian’. We were not surprised that there was no celebration of Christmas there...sheep and rocks aren’t into that sort of thing. Yet having eventually moved to a part of Crete where there are more people, it was surprising to see that there was no significant celebration of Christmas in the churches and that Easter was the main event.
Periodically we are honoured to be invited to church services held at tiny, remote Orthodox outposts dotted around the general Lasithi area. It is heartening to see so many people frantically crossing themselves, as if seeking absolution. Long before the ‘after-celebrations’ get underway and my mind becomes befuddled by the illiberal amounts of raki I am forced to imbibe, I focus on some old dear swathed in black and try to imagine what awful thing she believes she did that demands absolution. As I watch her penance, my mind drifts back to myself as a well-placed choir boy gazing lustfully at some smooth-skinned maiden casting her eyes innocently at the cross on the altar, as if seeking forgiveness. Frequently at these far-flung churches, I now find myself craving absolution for those thoughts I harboured of giving the fresh-faced young girl something to feel guilty about, when I should have been concentrating on singing a reverential hymn. Maybe the old Greek lady, whose hand moves as if swatting flies, is also reflecting on the smooth-faced actions of her youth, but black-clad in piety, it is hard to imagine she has any regrets.
Back along, there was barely any secular celebration in Crete...even on the Lasithi plateau when it snowed, there were no snowmen let alone snowwomen to marvel at. Yet more recently all around the district, there appeared strings of light and illuminations welcoming people to many villages. It has become even more widespread with the Kronia Pola signs and the ubiquitous manger scenes everywhere. This year, I’ve noticed that to greet visitors, our village has a blow-up snowman dressed in a traditional Santa outfit.
On a visit to Jumbo, Heraklion I was truly amazed to see the familiar representations of ‘Christmas’ occupying so much space. So although Crete has not really celebrated Christmas religiously, it is certainly being encouraged by the ‘Christmas Industry’ to spend it commercially. Maybe it won’t be long before we see houses here weighed down with those lights, overgrown baubles and illuminated Santas waving from the roof tops...that very 'tack' that I was pleased to escape from six years ago.
Yes, I can say that Christmas here is certainly entering into the festive phase. Yet I would counsel Orthodox Christians from taking the celebrations too far, because as sure as night follows day the festivities, the holidays, the decorations and the presents will become the main event while the celebration of the birth of Christ will surely become as forgotten here as it is ‘back home’.
If you'd like to visit more blogs celebrating Greek Christmas themes, then take a hop through the list below. If you could leave a comment on one or more of the blogs, we would all be delighted.
My First Greek Island Christmas by Jennifer Barclay
Sugared Almond Biscuits (Κουραμπιέδες) by Amanda Bidirini
Kritsa Christmas by Yvonne Payne
My first Greek Christmas' by Julie Ryan
Beers with Santa on Tilos by Ian Smith
I have just read a piece by David Hall, called ‘Alienating Alias’ on his blog. An interesting slant on the fringes of the transgender topic, I thought. Perhaps you should read it before you continue, but if you don’t have time, he questions if authors are able to write in the guise of the opposite sex.
My eye opener to the opposite sex was not like his, behind the bike shed, but the long grass of a nearby field where five year-old ‘YSMY’ & ‘ISYM’ (I’ll leave you to work those out for yourselves) soon gave way to ‘Doctors and Nurses’. In those gloriously politically incorrect 1950’s days, doctors were always male and nurses always female, so who were we kids to argue?
But we are talking mostly about physical differences that, give or take, are easily discernible, although there have been some tragic errors of identification in the maternity wards. Even in adulthood there are some peculiarly under- or over-developed bits that might raise an eyebrow but spectacularly fail to raise actual pulsing interest.
It seems to me that when it comes to writing, it is not the ‘bits’ you are sitting on as much as the ‘wits’ between your ears that matter as you thump the keyboard. Just as we are physically constructed in shades of grey, so we are wired in round about ways. Some men are more able to think as women do and some women amaze with male perspective. What makes some men fancy other men or women other women? ‘It’s not just the bits, it’s the mind that controls them’ (That fits into a song quite well...know the one?).
So, to suggest that no man can write like a woman or vice versa doesn’t wash with me. What about George Elliot who was determined not to be a prejudged writer.
I have known ‘men-fancying men’ and ‘women-fancying women’ (I eschew the G word) whose brains are more akin thinking-wise to the very opposite that their body parts suggest. However, there are women whose attention is drawn to opposites and men who are not at all interested physically in other men who are not afraid to demonstrate a side of their thinking that does not accord with their physique.
I wanted to write a chick-lit, I thought. I had never read one and believed they were books written by women for women. I read, correction...glanced at, one or two and decided they could hardly be described as books and the writers barely described as full grown women. Yet what of the readers? Now this is the interesting bit; the ‘books’ I sampled very unscientifically, followed a clear theme, yet could draw a range of readers irrespective of their circumstances. Thus I could see a high-power female executive reading one to drag herself back into contact with her threatened feminine side, while the same undemanding tale could be read by a dumb blonde, just to stay in contact with her dumb side. Just like the ‘man for all seasons’ there are ‘books for all reasons’.
Anyway, I decided that it wasn’t a chick-lit I wanted to write. The terminology had led me astray, just like little Jenny in that field of long grass. I wanted to write a book for the professional woman, whether she be single, divorced, separated, grass widowed, cuckolded or whatever else. I didn’t take a name like Penny Drop, I wanted to stay connected to my burgeoning masculine side, so R.G.Stevens (for Richard Gordon) became Argy Stevens, complete with suitable photograph and that is the name on the cover of ‘Discrete Reversal’....a book for the thinking professional woman. Gratefully, I must record that yesterday to my surprise, she posted a wonderful review, dahling!
On the 9th June I went to a book signing at Eklektos Bookshop in Elounda, Crete. It wasn’t to sign my book Discrete Reversal, which is currently only available as an e-book. It was Kritsotopoula by Yvonne Payne, so it was her day anyway. It was great to chat with her, not least because both Harry volumes, the Louse and the Spouse should be available in paperback this year and I look forward to my own book-signing in the same bookshop, because Elounda is where Harry casts his spell.
Anyway, this blog is following on from The Ferryman theme and after Yvonne’s book-signing I went, for the first time, to see some of the film’s settings.
The Ferryman Tavern is now fronted by a waterside gallery, so the original character is lost, but as I went to climb the steps to look at the apartment that ‘Leandros’ (Jack Hedley) borrowed from Babis, his wartime friend, a voice rang out and I paused. I knew what was coming because no Cretan business can afford to let custom pass by, especially in these dire times. The man spoke to me in broken English, working his way up to inviting me to one of his tables. I listened to him politely then replied in my broken Greek, which was not quite so spasmena as his English, evidently, because we continued in his language.
I was no longer a potential customer, at least not with any overriding immediacy, I was a friend because I was speaking to him in something approximating to Cretan Greek.
I discovered that ‘Akis’, is the proprietor of The Ferryman Tavern and before long my new friend had discreetly edged me to a table where we sat over a karafaki raki and very excellent raki it was. I was late for an appointment, but I was confident that the Cretan I was meeting would be late as well, so I dwelt there talking about the film and the settings.
I have written somewhere else that I was saddened by the ending of the film, where Leandros’ newly discovered daughter, her husband and Leandros’ grandson, die in a vengeful car accident. I have been told that a Greek producer is hoping to film a new version and I mentioned the tragic ending and hope that the boy might be spared to be brought up by his grandfather and aunt who will marry.
Akis told me that little Alexis, though ‘killed’ in the film, is alive and well and not so little, living in Agios Nikolaos. My sentimentalism evaporated, as did that raki in the heat of the sun, or was it the warmth of the company? I am hoping Akis will locate the fifty year-old one-time film star and I will have the pleasure of entertaining him and his family (immediate that is, not extended or I will be bankrupt) at The Ferryman one evening.
You see, Akis is a wise restaurateur, there may have been no immediacy but the reward will far outweigh the lunch he hoped I would take when he first saw me. As always in Crete, it is not what you eat, it is whom you eat it with that counts.
We should have realised that the sun setting behind us would cast our shadows long. Worse still, they are amplified so that the slightest movement of my head moves my damned shadow temptingly across the path. Off to my left is the plain tall Christian cross casting its long shadow across the battlefield of the past. All our damned training and my brother is over there groaning in agony because we had not anticipated a reception committee hidden in the old graveyard. I heard the twang of the crossbow and instinctively hit the ground as my brother cried out. Through his pain, George recovers his self-control and tells me in a whisper, punctuated by muted gasps, that he’s been hit in the upper chest by a cross-bow bolt.
I want to go to him; all my medical knowledge tells me that if I am quick I might save him, but my military training tells me that all the while my shadow falls across the path I am a marked man. Heroics are only worth performing if there’s a good chance they’ll pay off, I tell myself. I keep repeating the maxim, as much to hold myself still and have my shadow merge anonymously with those cast by the trees, as to take my mind off the painful agonies George is suffering as his lifeblood drains away.
George and I had come to the German Cemetery at Maleme, Crete to avenge a family member who had been murdered in Berlin in 1987. Our uncle had been stabbed through the heart after he’d unearthed some truth about the death of Rudolf Hess in Spandau prison. He was a pathologist in the British Military Hospital in Berlin and had carried out a second opinion examination. He had been about to reveal his findings formally when he was found dead in his home. There was no trace of his report or the documents he had painstakingly put together, yet he had already given me the gist of his findings and they were dynamite. How, though, did we believe we could avenge his death here in a graveyard two thousand miles away, amongst men that had been dead for more than seventy years?
A poor partial set of prints had been found on the ribbed handle of the SAS dagger that killed him, but they never led to an arrest because forensic science was barely beyond infancy and every time the prints were re-examined, they became more obscure. Then last year partial prints on a similar dagger used in a murder in London had been clarified using a new infrared molecular-adhesion comparator. The clear set of prints led to an arrest and more importantly a conviction strongly reliant on the new equipment. Hearing about this from army colleagues, my brother George and I had our uncle’s murder weapon sent over from the cold-case vaults in Germany for evaluation. The new images were imprecise but worthy of feeding into an automatic search database. Astoundingly, because of a particular quirk in a forefinger loop, there were but two men whose prints were deemed to have identifiable matching points. Yet both were dead, one incontrovertibly laying in the Invaliden cemetery in Berlin, the other believed interred in the war cemetery on Hill 107, Crete next to the old Greek Orothodox cemetery. Hauptman Doktor Franz von Schumann had apparently died nearby from wounds sustained when he, parachuting to the ground, had been hit by rifle fire. He could have stayed safe in Magdeburg hospital, but had volunteered to join the Fallschirmjäger and was one of the first wave to parachute into Crete in May 1941.
George and I were here to use a remarkable piece of equipment that had been developed to test discreetly the areas around Sohbibor concentration camp claimed to hold the remains of thousands that died between 1942 and 1945. However, further traditional soil examination was being resisted after long-held beliefs had been challenged. The piece of kit used amplification technology to analyse sampled traces of human DNA that leaches out into the soil. Thousands of barely-intrusive readings had enabled conclusive results, which confirmed the German wartime records, held by the Russians, that would be beyond public scrutiny until 2015.
We were not involved in that initial confidential activity nor, for the moment, is it of interest to us. Yet the equipment had been so convincingly accurate that we hope to probe the area around Hauptman von Schumann’s grave covertly and without any hint of desecration. Despite only a handful of trusted people knowing we were coming here, my brother, who I can still hear breathing, lays in peril until that blasted sun casts its final shadow of the day.
What forces, I wonder, could be sufficiently worried to be here waiting for us? Now, even before the soil has been probed I am confident we are on to something big, perhaps so big that death reaches out from the archives to silence both of us.
Then, as it does in the Mediterranean, the sun calls time and everything goes black. I wait, briefly wondering if our attacker has set up his deathly contraption on a tripod aimed at my shadow before it merged with those of the trees. If so, when I make a move he has a good chance of hitting me, Zeus-like, with his waiting lightning bolt.
Silently I inch backwards until in the darkness I can shuffle across to George. I take his hand, “George, George I’m going to have to feel my way around your wound, I daren’t use a torch.” He squeezes my hand, he is steeling himself. The bolt has gone in high, just below his collar bone, which I can feel is shattered but as far as I can tell the flesh has closed around the shaft and the worst of the bleeding is staunched. I reach in his rucksack for the medipac and soon am injecting the pre-dosed morphine, enough to make pain tolerable but not render the wounded unable to walk...it should also buy me time. “That should sort the pain out.”
Then in the car-park well below us, I hear an engine start and wonder why our assailant believes he’s halted our mission. The obvious answer, he has stopped us in our tracks until nightfall and the prospect of reinforcements tomorrow. It makes me think he might not know about the piece of kit we are carrying, let alone the simplicity of it. “George, if you’re able to hang on a while, I’m going to the grave and do what we came here to do, there may not be another chance.”
“I can hardly feel a thing, you interrupted a wonderful dream, this gorgeous woman was just about to...” he starts snoring softly and it resonates reassuringly as I make my way to the Hauptman’s grave.
Quickly, I am there and back – job done. Okay, I don’t know if we have meaningful results, but the little box of electronic wizardry has flashed its detection of six different human DNA’s, two for von Schumann and his eternal companion in the two-man grave they share and four more from similar graves both sides of them.
“Can you walk, George, if I help you?”
We make our way back to our car, slowed by our equipment and a need to stop periodically to check we aren’t about to be ambushed. Taking George to hospital is impossible, the police will become involved, so we sneak into our nearby hotel pretending we are drunk. Once in the room I remove the bolt, fix a shoulder harness in place and set up a simple transfusion between us. While my blood flows to George, I download the information to London and the prospect of meaningful results.
Three days later we are home and sifting through some amazing information. Dr Franz von Schumann is not in the Maleme grave...so perhaps those fingerprints on the dagger that killed our uncle were indeed his. Now we have more things to find out. Had he chosen or been ordered not to go to Crete and how was our uncle’s death linked to this man? Had Dr von Schumann also been behind the suspicious, covered-up death of Hitler’s deputy because Hess knew too much? We know who we are looking for, the first thing now is to find out his substitute identity and whether the ninety-eight year-old is still alive. If not, more alarmingly, who is behind the attempt on our lives in Crete? One thing we are quite certain of...it is unlikely in 1941 Germany that von Schumann took the identity of the woman in the grave... To be continued
Part 03 by S. Bradley Stoner is amazing - read it quickly and volunteer for Part 04 before you are beaten to the draw
This ‘Tag Blog’ is my continuation of Jeremy Crow’s first part of Shadows Fall. http://creativitywhacko.blogspot.com/2015/06/shadows-fall-tag-blog-part-01.html
When you have finished reading this part and feel you would like to write the third part, you will find the instructions at the end.
I have just watched ‘Who Pays the Ferryman’, the 1977 TV series filmed in and around Elounda, Crete. Watching any story that is nearly forty years old can be poignant, especially if it’s a classic that we watched years ago and want to see again for our own nostalgic reasons. Often we make judgements about dress, accents, attitudes and moral values. Dress is seen as too formal, accents too posh, attitudes too affected or old-fashioned and morality
Yes, much of ‘Who Pays the Ferryman’ was like this. However, although told in the typical manner of the ‘70’s, the storyline could be just as compelling today. Boy meets girl during overseas conflict, boy returns home, girl discovers she is pregnant; boy writes, girl’s mother hides letters, local man takes on pregnant girl; gives birth to daughter later orphaned, marries and has a son of her own; much later boy returns to find he's a grandfather...Anyway, it would be just as plausible and topical these days.
Yet behind the ‘old-fashioned’ panoply, lies something that has not changed at all; in fact it goes back much further than forty years, beyond living memory.
When I decided to write the book that uses Crete as a backdrop, my initial thought for ‘Discrete Reversal’ was ‘Shirley Valentine for the older woman’. Shirley, as portrayed by Pauline Collins, is a woman ignored, a piece of ‘matrimonial furniture’ so desperate for interaction, she speaks to her wall...remember?
Okay, speaking to a wall sounds daft but it is figurative because many people speak to themselves or to some other focal object that cannot talk back. As a child I would go with my mother to tend her parents’ grave and thought that everybody spoke to their silent loved ones as if they could hear. People may not tend graves with such reverence anymore, but in times of trouble or distress may well speak to a photograph or something symbolic of a loved one. In some respects, while we may deride bygone times, within us all are those very emotions that connect with our roots.
After my first two years in Crete, I likened village life to how it was in my England fifty years ago. Only people that grew up in or around British villages would truly understand and maybe in some of our more remote settlements, many still do. We were brought up believing in our Christian heritage, we went to church...though I admit sometimes reluctantly, we respected our elders, did as we were told, helped our neighbours and we didn’t lock our doors. That is still the reality in much of Crete today.
While the British cast of The Ferryman may look jaded by today’s norms, the film depicts Cretans almost timelessly. Their clothes, particularly the black favoured by older ladies, can still be seen in many villages to this day. For people that come to Crete as tourists, there is little or no chance of being part of this reality; in fact tourists in All-Inclusives that switch on their televisions and catch a snippet of The Ferryman, could well believe that such life outside their hotels no longer existed, but it does.
Crete is an island with a chequered history, much like Britain’s. Settlement by outsiders and even invasion has been endured, including by Venetians and Turks in more recent history. Yet it is a remarkably homogenous society, whose people are warm and give their friendship long before it is returned, sometimes to the point that makes visitors wonder why. In Crete though, hospitality and generosity is the norm, undiluted by the foreigners that settle in their midst. The warmth transcends the barrier of language if the settler will cast off natural reserve and the typical ‘stiff upper lip’.
This friendliness to strangers or filloxenia is still alive and well in Crete just as portrayed in the 1977 film, but you won’t find it poolside or in the main resorts. You have to go out and track it down, often in the mountains. You are unlikely to experience anything like it yourself on a fortnight’s holiday, but you can witness it...you can be assured that filloxenia is still alive and well in modern-day Crete.
I was both heartened and horrified by an article I read recently. Heartened because the writer took the view that, as she was cared for in her early childhood, her father should be looked after in his second.
However, I was horrified when I came to think just how many older folk are shunted away with the primary concern being just how much of their inheritance will be squandered away because they live too long.
Suddenly one of the tacit concerns about ‘electing to die’ came clearly into focus, “Now, you do understand, don’t you, Mother…wait an hour then swallow these tablets, all your pain will be gone and everything will be all right.”
I wonder whether it’s purely a matter of economics or whether we just can’t be bothered to do it, “How dare she keep going? She’s your mother and I’m no skivvy to spend my time clearing up after her.” Yet the daughter-in-law’s pin-money job might bring in far less than the money they’d pay for a care home.
Maybe there should be a Grey Union that prepares pre-testimony contracts. Here, one or more beneficiaries would accept certain responsibilities for all of the eventual cake or a bigger slice of it over their siblings. Maybe we could have professional carers who commit to these duties in exchange for some or all of the cake.
It needs to be debated – we oldies need to know what our descendants’ intentions are, well in advance. Better to give yourself a painless death while you can and let them suffer, knowing your money has gone to the Cats’ Home instead of the Care Home.
It is said that everybody has a book within. Based upon the size of my waistline I must have hundreds. Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if just a little expulsion of gas brought forth a pristine best-seller perfectly ready for an expectant publisher.
Even for the serial-published author, life is not that easy, although it is a lot easier than for the ‘newbie’…that would-be writer that thinks ‘er’* knows it all, but in truth knows bugger-all.
Thirteen years ago, I had a story running around inside my head and night after night, I laboured to complete it. I now look back at my completed first draft and cringe when I see what a load of rubbish it was. Even after countless revisions, many punctuation corrections and a host of grammatical changes to its 130,000 words, it still wasn’t quite right. Yet, what exactly is ‘right’?
For several months, I was a member of a group called YouWriteOn, which is a peer review site with the potential of a professional review should one’s excerpt do well. After some wonderful reviews of my piece, ‘A$$URANCE’, it achieved YWO bestseller status. One of my reviewers was a man who is, perhaps, where I was twelve years ago…he has a novel running around inside his head that he is determined to complete. He is even considering taking a sabbatical from his doctor’s job in the medical profession to complete it.
What would I say to him? Without a doubt it would be: ‘Don’t give up your day job, unless you have private means, or have a reasonable pension and time on your hands. Yes, you’ll ‘complete’ your novel within a year or so, but getting it somewhere near the standard expected by a literary agency or publisher will increase this time threefold. My first novel has not yet achieved the acclaim it deserves, yet I am still expulsing novels as regularly as a baked bean addict clears his ‘throat’.
Why then do I do it? Well if you are a baked bean addict, or if you are too close to somebody that is, you will know that the occasional ‘churn’ is unavoidable if an uncomfortable build up of pressure is to be avoided. Until such times as Alzheimer’s puts the brake on all those stories running around inside my mind, I must write or I shall burst…but whether I shall ever burst forth on the writers’ stage and stand under the spotlight wallowing in the plaudits of the literary intelligentsia, is an imponderable.
The pressure is building up again. I feel an urgent need to ‘churn’ out my fifth book, ‘Discrete Reversal’. For me, anticipation is a marvellous antidote for colic; I hope it will be for the good doctor.
*‘er’ is Somerset dialect for he or for she and was used as a gender-neutral word long before
the corruption of the English language to use ‘they’ in the singular. I don’t think political correctness was behind it as such; more likely somebody wearing a white smock and a crumpled hat, chewing on a length of straw might be of either gender.
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