Into August

Wednesday 27th July

A certain retired Dutch physics teacher of my acquaintance said to me, ‘I’m glad I met you before reading your blog, else I would have expected someone always angry with steam coming out of his ears.’ This is because I use the blog to let off steam, but it is also about what is interesting.

If you sit down and watch 24 hour news you might think everything is falling apart when, in reality, all those wars, murders and natural disasters have been going on from the year dot and the only up-scaling is relative to population and to the number of TV hours needing to be filled. Through 24 hour news our impression of the world can be distorted because we’re not being told that meanwhile, in the rest of the world, an earthquake, a war or a famine didn’t happen. Equally, in the flesh I am not a hugely angry man, but I do post my exasperation and anger on my blog, so the impression given of me can also be distorted. It’s also the case that though this is a writer’s blog, what can I post about my writing?

Honest, no steam coming out of these ears, though having heard that from the Dutch guy I will endeavour to be a little less ranty, especially after that last one. Time to talk about plants and stuff…

Before we came here this year I got onto a website listing all sort of exotic seeds. The main ones I was hoping to see a result from were seeds for pitcher plants, Venus fly traps, tea and coffee. None of these came up in the first couple of months so I consigned the pots I’d planted them in round the back because there was always the chance they’d germinate later. Recently I decided that the seeds must have rotted so began emptying the pots, first picking up one I’d planted a coffee bean in. I emptied and found a sprouting bean so hurriedly put it back and waited. Now it seems I’ve got a few coffee plants on the way, but I’m buggered if I know where I’ll find room for them:

Another plant I’ve had trouble growing here is coleus, but I’ve done much better this year. Most of the seeds of ‘Top Crown Coleus’ germinated along with all of the seeds I’d saved from a dark red coleus last year.

Thursday 28th July
It seems I’m going to be even less ranty than predicted what with Caroline refusing to let me see the BBC news. This morning, for example, she sneaked a look at it while I was in the shower. I am in fact perfectly fine with this and feel no urge to turn on the TV to find out what members of the arsehole-ocracies of the world are doing. And almost certainly it’s better for my health.

One little thing I was thinking about doing on here was my own collection of aphorisms, perhaps trying to limit them to the character count of a Twitter message. Something along the lines of these: ‘Those who protest about cliques probably weren’t invited to join,’ or, ‘Those who moan about cliques probably don’t realize they’re in one.’ These occurred to me here because I really am someone who doesn’t like joining such groups, but time and time again I’ve heard people bemoaning the ex-pat cliques in Makrigialos to members of their own ex-pat clique. It’s a tribal thing really: we of the umpalumpas spit upon you Wanglefrogspouts.

Friday 29th July
Damn, and now I’m groping for something to write about now I’m not seeing anything on the news to get me irate. This, I guess, shows how habit-forming moaning can be. It’s certainly a trait to watch out for since it’s one that annoys me in others.

Okay, here’s how life is for me here at the moment. I get up in the morning, turn on my laptop, and while it warms up I bucket the grey water out of a barrel buried in the garden and use it to water the plants. With that done I return to my desk and warm up my writing faculties with a blog post like this one. I then turn to Jupiter War and aim to get 2,000 words of it done by the early afternoon. Just lately I’m not managing that because, like yesterday, I’ve been running back and forth through the book working out the plot – deleting, adding and altering. Yesterday, for example, my word count was 177 for the blog and 1606 for Jupiter War.

At some point during this we fit in a late breakfast and then, when I’ve finished writing for the day, I load copies of Jupiter War to two memory sticks. One goes in a drawer here whilst the other goes in the bag containing all the bits and pieces I take down to Makrigialos. This gives me two back-ups and, should anyone break in and steal my laptop, I’ll still have a copy or copies of the book, which is worth substantially more. We head down to the beach then where I have my ‘harbour swim’. This is over ten minutes of crawl across from Revans Bar to the harbour, then a little longer using both crawl and breast stroke on the way back. I’m not sure what the distance is but, me being very anal about counting stuff it’s about 320 strokes of crawl (one way), which I do in sets of three whilst bilaterally breathing. Maybe half a mile or so in total? I must check…

Next further dips are interspersed with whatever I’m reading, or the Athen’s News crossword or some work in a notebook as I sort out plot points. Presently I’m reading through Simon Scarrow’s four books on the Napoleon and Wellington – enjoyable, but the battle stuff is a bit repetitive, but then I suppose in reality it was repetitive. Later I’ll turn my attention to the stack of Dan Simmons tomes I brought here.

Having then worked up a sufficient thirst it’s ‘ora ya krasi’ (time for wine), with glasses of water and little bowls of nuts, seeds, crisps and sometimes water melon and other fruits. This is also people watching time: seeing the Greek mother who hasn’t realized that a number of years ago the doctor cut the umbilical cord attaching her to her child, or the Greek father blowing his stack because a boy from a nearby restaurant kicked over his sand castle, or an English guy of our acquaintance ‘on the pull’, or the woman in danger of being relaunched by Green Peace, or the twit on a lilo suddenly realizing he’s half a mile out at sea and in danger of paying Gadaffi a visit.

After a couple of hours of this it’s back home for something to eat, some time on the terrace in the evening discussing our eventful day and the meaning of life, then to bed, ready to start the whole circuit off again the next day.

I’ve had one or two interesting emails this week that are worth a mention. One was from a guy in America who really enjoyed Gridlinked and then: I caught myself doing something I promised myself I would never do after several disappointments; I went to your blog expecting leftist socialist drivel simply because that’s what I’ve been seeing with many authors. I think you can guess how the rest of the email runs…

Another email was from Night Shade Books explaining the ‘Night Shade Silence’ and why I and others haven’t received royalties we’re owed. The letter from Jason Williams should be required reading for anyone wanting to set up a publishing company.

Then there’s the email from an LA-based producer who is a huge fan of my books and a partner in something called Black Box Management and who works with directors, writers and actors. He wants to get on the phone with me for a chat…

Monday 1st August
Damn the cicadas are loud this year. I guess there’re lots of them because of the long cold and wet winter, just as there’s more of all the insect life and other life besides. Their noise, I read somewhere, is capable of damaging ear drums at short range, and I can well believe it. When one is close I certainly get the feeling of something rattling in my ears. Oh, and the one whose job it is to catch and eat the buggers seems to be slacking on the job:

Even whilst avoiding the news it’s not difficult to pick up on snippets about the various ‘countries in debt’ across the world. Greece is going into default, no matter how European leaders might like to style it, and the rest of the PIIGS are following. Britain’s debt, when counted properly is in the region of 4 trillion pounds, whilst America’s is 14.3 dollars, and who knows how that’s being counted. But the statement that these countries are all in debt is absolute rubbish. In reality it is the large fat parasites attached to the countries, which have eaten up in some cases nearly half the country concerned, that are in debt. Governments, with their bloated bureaucracies are the ones that have been profligately over-spending, over-paying themselves and setting their own limit on their credit cards. And, as always, it’s the governments and those bureaucracies, who like leeches care little for the blood supply of their host, who keep on sucking until the last.

We’re avoiding Makrigialos over the weekends now because it is now holiday time in many places across Europe including Greece itself. There are many more people down there now, including Cretans from across the island heading to the beach for the weekend. This gives us time to get some shopping and generally sort things out around the house and garden though, with the temperature up in the thirties, all these are carried out at a rather slow pace.

Tuesday 2nd August
Okay, I need to get something off my chest: cicadas are not crickets. If you take a nice close look at one of the ugly bastards you’ll see something like a big horrible horse fly with more eyes than feasible. Here’s a picture for you:

Also, just as I was corrected years ago when in a short story I talked about the ‘scent of bougainvillea’ (it has no scent) and luckily did not compound my error by talking about ‘colourful bougainvillea in flower’ (all the pretty stuff you see is leaf bracts)…

… the sound of the Mediterranean (or more specifically Cretan) night has nothing to do with ‘cicadas singing’ because they stop their racket when the sun goes down. What you hear are crickets and frogs. Elsewhere in the world it might be different, because there are thousands of varieties of cicada and some of them do sing, apparently. Here they make a raucous racket and are tempting targets for a BB gun.

It’ll shortly be time to start picking the chillies:

I have to say that you do see some sights here. Yesterday we got a little bit concerned about a swimmer who was beyond the buoys, and who was therefore in danger of being run down by a speed boat or jet ski, and seemed to be swimming but getting nowhere. We wondered if this character was trying to do himself in, had just swum from Libya or Egypt or was just a bit of a nutter. Views through the binoculars of him wearing a sun hat, using plastic sandals on his hands to propel himself and wearing white socks seemed to confirm the last option. He eventually made it to shore – a quite porky individual who had to struggle in the shallows to put his white sandals on over his white socks before staggering up the beach to his towel.

Funny old world.

Prince of Thorns
Okay, some of you may remember my review of The Prince of Thorns, which has been one of the bets fantasies I read in a while. At the time some of you bemoaned my eight months early review of that book. Well, Mark tells me it’s out now so go buy it. You won’t regret it:

That’s all for now.

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