Doom, Gloom, but Raki is Coming

Wednesday 21st September

Ah, the rain is on its way. It’s been particularly humid lately but warm enough to prevent a lot of condensation. However, last night the mist and cloud began forming in the mountains here and this morning some leaden looking cloud is rising above the horizon. It’s time to start bringing in the terrace furniture in the evenings, and time to ensure we have some dry logs inside the house.

I see, on BBC World, that the Times World Atlas rather exaggerated the extent of ice melt in Greenland and has been picked up on this by people at Cambridge University. The area claimed to have melted in the World Atlas is apparently ‘absurd’. However, the BBC reporter interviewing a sweaty and worried looking Cambridge professor stated, ‘But you wouldn’t dispute that ice has melted?’ This is what is known as a leading question and of course the professor answered as required, though he did manage to slip in an ‘associated with’ global warming rather than the preferred ‘caused by’. What’s astounding about this is that just a few years ago, such a report, it being contrary to accepted writ, would never have made it to the screen. Here we are seeing some tentative ventures into arse-covering and I suspect we can look forward to stuff of a similar nature over the next few years. Enjoy the prospect of BBC presenters pretending astonishment at not having been parboiled in their beds and claiming to be the innocent victims of corrupt scientists.

I note that a previous Afghan leader has been a blown up by a bomb that was concealed in a turban. Damn but those Danish cartoonists shouldn’t have given the Taliban ideas. I also wonder, whilst you’re taking off your belt, shoes and jacket at the airport to put them through the X-ray scanner, whether you’ll see any turbans on the same conveyor. Of course not, that would be the evil racial or religious profiling, and civilization would collapse if you were to note the unlikelihood of any inclination to suicide bomb a plane in the blue-rinse granny being searched ahead of you.

Thursday 23rd September
Yup the weather is changing, though no rain has actually dropped on us. We sat on our terrace last night watching the flashes of a thunderstorm beyond the mountains opposite. Down in Makrigialos the sea was still warm, but only suitable for surfing. I took a bit of a dip and hurled myself through a few waves, but then we both retired from the windy beach which, with this rough sea, is steadily disappearing again.

Now, frequently we get people here asking us if we have tried this restaurant or that, or this bar or that bar. Our reply is always a self-deprecating, ‘We’re really boring’ going on to say that we use just a few of either. We know a few nice bars where we get precisely what we want and we know a few restaurants which have their various quirks but where the food is always good and tasty. We’re often loath to try other places because of the prospect of disappointment. However, yesterday, what with the beach and the sea being out and Revans bar having been occupied by a loud-mouthed knob-head, we ventured off. And what happened rather proves our point.

First we went to a beachside bar we hadn’t been in for months. The moment we walked in we could see it was run down and none too clean. The wine was okay, but the carafe dusty. The tables had been wiped without any real effort to get them clean and the floors were dirty and scattered with sand. We finished our wine and headed off. After a brief sojourn in another bar that we know is good – the drinks are always right, the snacks are very good and the place is always clean and tidy – we decided to try a beachside restaurant people had recommended, though with the proviso that rather too much food is served there. Since by this time I was starving, this seemed like a good idea to me. We wandered over to this restaurant and sat down. Having already had some wine we ordered two fresh orange juices and our meal. The juices turned up, a little tardily, but they were good and big. Next the place began filling up with customers, which is always a good sign, and we awaited our meals. Having come to very much like the lamb chops with garlic served at the Gabbiano I had ordered the same here, while Caroline ordered chicken with pepper sauce. And we waited, and waited.

About three-quarters of an hour later our meal turned up – good platefuls but no spectacular amount. There was also an excess of decoration what with little piles of tomato, cucumber and tzatsiki dotted here and there and herbs sprinkled around the edges of the plate (the expression to describe this is ‘lipstick on a pig’). I dived in to my pile of lamb chops with garlic… Now, maybe it’s just me, but shouldn’t lamb chops be served hot? Also, whilst a glob of grated raw garlic dropped on top of cold lamb chops is ‘lamb chops with garlic’ this was not quite what I expected. The only hot thing on the plate was the soggy chips. I also feel that on a lamb chop the meat should outweigh the bone and gristle. After scraping off mouth-burning raw garlic I ate the meat, and ended up with pile of debris little different in size to the original pile of lamb chops. Meanwhile, Caroline had tried her chicken, in its covering of brown muck scattered with a few peppercorns, and decided she really didn’t want her shoes resoled today. We ate what we could, hurriedly paid the bill and left just as fast as we could. On the drive back it was necessary to keep the windows open so Caroline didn’t end up gagging at the smell of my breath. For about an hour afterwards I felt nauseous and back at home had an Ouzo to get the horrible taste out of my mouth, while Caroline had to go and clean her teeth to the same effect. Screw other people’s recommendations and screw trying ‘somewhere new’. We’re back at the Gabbiano tomorrow.

Friday 23rd September
What with the financial crisis continuing, G20 leaders are going to take ‘strong action’. On the news we see sharp-suited politicians (and their pet ‘financial experts’) climbing out of limos clutching folders and heading importantly into buildings, or making speeches at decision-making conferences. All of these people, living in their elitist bubble, are certain and determined about the need to do something during this ‘dangerous time’. Of course the problem here is that people like this have absolutely no idea what to do. Getting paid a large salary without ever any penalty for fucking up doesn’t really prepare one for problem solving. They talk blithely about ‘liquidity, volatility, challenges, calming the market’ or whatever other buzz-words happens to be in vogue at the time, meanwhile seeing no further than insuring their own budgets and salaries aren’t cut and resorting straight away to more taxes and more state control.

So, you want business making money, you want ‘liquidity’, you want people grafting away and increasing your country’s wealth, you want that money flowing into your treasury? Here’re some ideas: Why don’t you stop hamstringing businesses with increasing red tape? Why don’t you stop taxing their working capital into oblivion? Why don’t you lose tax systems that penalize success, that is, are you so stupid that you think taking more money off people because they do more and make more money is actually some form of encouragement? Why don’t you stop paying bureaucrats large amounts of money to shuffle paper and interfere, that is, how about you lose much of the money-wasting business-killing state sector? Why don’t you tear up welfare systems that actively encourage sloth, indolence and state theft? And why oh why don’t you realize that you aren’t the source of solution, but the problem itself? Thank you for listening (ho ho).

With plenty of cloud scattered about the sky we got a shower of rain yesterday. Today it is windy, grey and showery, and the temperature has dropped below twenty. In Britain this would be your average summer’s day, but here it’s a rather abrupt change from the warm seas and temperatures approaching thirty of just a few days ago. We now have the smell of wood smoke in the village, and the likelihood of seeing a Cretan dressed in anything less than trousers and sweater has dropped to zero. Summers have to end, unfortunately, but it’s still a bit depressing. I’ve no doubt that there will be more hot sun, but for me there’s going to be a lot less swimming and more walking, some drainpipes to fix and some holes to seal, and the prospect of having to spark up the stove.

Saturday 24th September
Either someone sent me something or I read somewhere that the hypothesized ‘dark matter’ in our universe is coming in for a bit of a kicking. I never much liked this hypothesis because it seemed far too convenient; far too much of a fudge i.e. I know the density of strong cheddar but when I cut a lump of it which, by my other measurements, should have weighed one pound, I found it weighed a pound and half. I therefore hypothesize the presence of invisible cheese which I will call ‘dark cheese’. To which the reply has to be, ‘Check your fucking scales, mate.’ And now, it seems, Einstein might be getting a kicking too.

By now anyone with a science fictional turn of mind will know that those excellent lunatics at CERN in Geneva, who have been firing neutrinos 400 miles to Italy, have found that the neutrinos have been arriving a bit early i.e. they were travelling faster than the speed of light. Now, if this turns out to be true, Special Relativity just took a terminal wound. You see, even though the mass of a neutrino is very very small, Einstein’s theories tell us that the mass of an object increases with its speed until, as it approaches the speed of light, its mass approaches infinity. So one also has to wonder why Italy isn’t now a smoking crater or, in fact, our whole planet, or the universe itself. You see, if their measurements are right, by Einstein’s theory, objects of infinite mass should have arrived at the end of that four hundred mile course in Italy. But then again, we would have burnt out the universe accelerating them, since that would have required infinite energy…

The guys at CERN are putting their data out to be checked by as many other scientists as possible. One of them asserted, ‘All scientists are by their nature sceptical.’ Yes, that scepticism is a defining trait of a scientist and its lack rather defines what a scientist isn’t. Now, can anyone think of a ‘science’ where results are twisted to fit the theory and the data isn’t put out there for others to check?

Monday 26th September
Caroline spotted this beauty sitting out on the path before our gate. I reckon it must have fallen out of the fig tree where, with these camouflage colours, I probably wouldn’t have spotted it before. Until such a time as someone lets me know what this one is called I name it the Harrier jump-jet moth. And here we are seeing something that looks a bit like some of the landing craft you’ll find in my books.

According to Christine Lagarde, in a recent meeting European leaders all agree they’re going to continue working together to resolve the debt crisis. She tells us it is going to be hard and there are some tough times ahead, doubtless going on to a Champagne supper after the program in which she appeared and further discussions over caviar and biscuits about how difficult it is all going to be. What these ‘European leaders’ mean of course is that it is going to be tough for just about everyone but them. You won’t be seeing any of them suffering because of endless tax hikes, endless increases in the price of petrol, food and household goods; or because their company just collapsed; or because the bank their savings are in just went to the wall etc. They’ll still be on the kind of annual salary most people would be glad to receive for five or ten years of work. They’ll still be swanning about on the European stage feeling very important, they’ll still be heading to various meetings flying business-class or in their chauffeur-driven Mercs while checking their overseas investments, they’ll still be issuing buzz-word sound-bites to the media and they’ll still suffer no penalty for having fucked things up in the first place. Let’s just reiterate something: if government is in debt then a government overspent, okay?

Monday 26th September
Ah, raki season is arriving. Because of the inclement weather going on for longer than usual a lot of the grape harvest on Crete has been spoiled. I’m told a combination of rain and sun at the wrong time was the problem – maybe showers knocking off the grape flowers, or the moisture causing mildew? Anyway, the guy who makes raki right next to our house, Nectarius, wasn’t sure if he would be making it this year. However, he’s a can-do sort of guy and recently turned up with the barrels you see, which are all full of fermenting grapes he had to buy near Iraklion (over a hundred kilometres away). I’ve been co-opted into stirring this stuff up every evening, so I damned well hope they still the raki while I’m still here.

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