Artichokes and Teeth

Monday 13th May

I have to admit to drinking an excessive amount on Friday night. After wine and brandy at the Gabbiano I made the critical mistake, when back here, of deciding to have some raki. As many hardened soaks out there know: it always seems like a good idea at the time. I spent the next day feeling like crap and with an indescribably foul taste in my mouth and was of course telling myself, ‘Never again!’ In the evening, after an internet session down at the taverna, we strolled back to the house past and above our new neighbour’s little terrace. Anna and Babbis were down there eating and drinking in the typical Greek manner and invited us down. Both of us immediately said, ‘No!’ … as in ‘No, please don’t make us do it.’ After some explaining they said okay, but then Babbis demanded that we go down for coffee the next day. Come Saturday we felt much better and ventured down to see them at about 10AM. Some nice frappes were duly served and we sat there chatting. Anna then turned to me and said something in a combination of slightly broken English and Greek which, with reference to my Greek/English dictionary I finally managed to work out. Many years ago we knew Anna and her husband (now divorced) and during one evening out with them she labelled me ‘the alcoholic writer’. What she had just said was, ‘You will soon see it is your destiny to be an alcoholic writer’, whereupon Babbis came out of the house with a plate of ‘aginara’, which is the edible part of a globe artichoke, raw, soaked in lemon juice and sprinkled with salt, along with a bottle of raki. It would of course have been rude to refuse a second time. Raki at 10.30 in the morning. *Sigh* Well, at least I read on the internet just recently that artichoke is very good for the liver and may even help it regenerate…

On Sunday night we watched the last season of Deadwood, impatient, annoyed… The first season, once we were past the language barrier, held out so much promise. The second season was a bit meh but we felt it worth staying with and were a little annoyed hearing it had been cancelled after three seasons.

The third season was when the writers completely lost the plot. From a writer’s perspective I can see where it went wrong. There were too many ‘characters’ that for some reason had to be given their own little story, some of those stories just plain irritating, and this resulted in a proliferation of irrelevant sub-plots. Additional characters were introduced when there were more than enough already. I mean, all that prickery about an actor’s troop arriving? The overly complicated and convoluted verbiage had grown. And in the end there was too much concentration on ‘character’ and not enough on the story with the final result that it all fell apart. That ending: the Chinese being armed, Sweringen hiring 18 gunmen, the other saloon guy killing for no apparent reason, the killing of the whore, the woman selling her gold claim … what a completely unsatisfying mess. Deserved to be cancelled.

Wednesday 15th May
We went down to Sitia yesterday where I had booked an appointment to have my teeth cleaned. I’m not sure how it is now on the NHS because I haven’t been for a while, but my recollection was of a 15 minute check-up and polish then out the door to pay the receptionist about £20. The traumatic session in Sitia cost €70 but took one hour and ten minutes with every tooth meticulously cleaned. Next it seems I need a small filling and my crown replaced because my gum has receded – I’ll have the latter replaced with a ceramic job this time.

I’ve not talked much about other costs and changes here, and there’s a classic one I have to mention. Our nearby English neighbour outside of Papagianades looks after our car in the winter and, as well as taking it either for its MOT or emissions test, gets us our road tax. In its wisdom the Greek government has decided to save money on the printing of the sticky label to go in the windscreen showing that you have paid for your road tax. It’s now just a piece of paper you keep inside the car. This means that even less people will be buying road tax because now they’ve no fear of being caught not displaying it.

In response to the BBC-promoted idea that evil western capitalists cause building collapses in Bangladesh by buying cheap T-shirts, I hear that clothing retailers have teamed up in some ‘safety accord’. I despair. So are these retailers going to employ building inspectors to ensure the right amount of steel and cement has gone into the concrete buildings the manufacturers will base themselves in? Will they be scanning the walls and testing samples of the concrete in buildings every time one of these manufacturers starts up or relocates, in a chaotic country with a population of over a billion? No, of course they won’t, this is just another fillip to that good old white man’s guilt.

Thursday 16th May
Ah regarding that trip to Sitia on Tuesday. It was sunny but breezy with a scattering of cloud when we went down. As we returned the mountains were disappearing in cloud and were being crossed by curtains of heavy rain. When it rains here it rains. At one point on the road up I was travelling at about 10 miles an hour with the windscreen wipers going at full pelt and the road about half an inch deep in water all across. Of course, as is usual, someone wasn’t taking sufficient care – I had to circumvent a van sitting sideways across the road, past a mangled car and avoiding the fragments of both scattered all over the tarmac.

Hey, what a surprise in France? Vote in Hollande, a high-spending socialist twit, and the country ends up going into recession. What a shock that pissing more money up the wall and heavily taxing wealth generators results in the economy tanking. I think I made some acid comments about his election last year when he announced massive spending to regenerate the French economy. I can’t be bothered to search them out.

Tuesday 21st May
Penny Royal III is now past 140,000 words but, as I noted before, I’m going much slower now. As I approach the ending I’m finding I have to tweak quite a lot in the previous books. Certain characters have to be made more dangerous, others less moral while another one, who has only appeared in this book, needs to now be established in the previous two. In some cases this involves rewriting entire sections, in other cases it’s just a line or two to be added, subtracted or altered. However, every case requires a great deal of searching and rereading.

Meanwhile, on the Papagianades front, I stormed down to our noisy neighbour the other day and, with fists clenched and murder in my heart, politely asked him to turn his music down, which he did. The thing about this sort of problem is that you have to be smart. If I shout at him that may well stop him playing his music loudly, but it could also result in offended pride and a worse situation. If I drove the point home by punching him on the nose that could result in me ending up in a jail cell in Sitia or receiving a visit from some of his relatives. In the last case one has to remember that they’re so interbred here the relatives of one person can include half the island population. Therefore, the next time he plays his music, and if it is not loud, I’ll go down and thank him for being considerate.

Friday 24th May
Um, well, I don’t know when I’ll get round to posting this blog. The taverna in the village has wifi so I had decided to use it whenever I wanted to do something on the Internet with my laptop, like collect emails and post blogs. Both of these I don’t want to do on the Ipad because I haven’t found out if there’s a way to transfer anything other than pictures between it and my laptop. Now we’re spending more time in Makrigialos where I don’t like taking the laptop (I don’t like leaving it in the boot of the car where the temperature has to be not far off that for roasting potatoes) but do like taking my Ipad. I must make time, once a week, for that laptop internet connection.

Well, I’ve had my filling, which turned out to be two fillings, and I’ve had my old crown taken out, impressions made and a temporary inserted until the ceramic version arrives. It’s interesting to hear the dentists here (two of them – husband and wife team) using the word ‘caries’ which I’m guessing many English would not recognise even though it is an English word for tooth decay. It’s probably more commonly used in the dental profession. Also, following the advice given on my previous appointment I’ve been using those things that look like microscopic bottle brushes to clean between my teeth. This is all very well but, when you have all your teeth with hardly any gaps between them it’s almost impossible to get the brush between the back two. I guess I need this:

I opened one door of the cabinet and took out a small brushbot, inserted it into my mouth and waited while it traversed round my teeth cleaning them perfectly. Took it out and dropped it into its sanitizer, then went back into my room to dress.

Saturday 25th May
So, we walked into this bar where we met Mikalis the Psaris (fisherman). Stephanos, the owner of the bar, knows we’re not tourists and would be a handy addition to his regular cliental. His face was a picture when he saw that, ‘Oh my God they’ve walked into my bar for the first time in weeks and have got the nutter again!’ On the previous occasion it was a drunken Kurd of our acquaintance who fell off his motorbike outside the bar before deciding to join us. This time we had Mad Mike who was insistent on explaining to us that the two psychos who cut the head off a soldier in London should, ‘not live one minute’ and should, ‘die now’ apparently in the same way that they had killed, and that we ‘do not understand’. Well we bloody well did understand and told him so, but he had to continue his rant. Anyone not familiar with the Cretan man would have thought he was about to turn violent. It’s not that, it’s that they tend to get a bit excited. Then, before we could make our escape, he bought us each a beer we didn’t want, but we managed to divert him onto other subjects.

Back on the subject of the decollation: I saw that the police were doing a fingertip search of the area for evidence. Why? I would have thought two nutters covered in blood and wielding knives, a meat cleaver and a gun was evidence enough. Our taxes would have been better spent on a rope or, even better, the police that shot these two should have finished the job. To save on further bullets they could have used the meat cleaver, then found some handy spikes on the Tower of London…

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