Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Wordy Wednesday

I almost didn't write anything today. I had intended to, but a box arrived with some early Hitchcock films, including two I haven't seen (Pleasure Garden and Downhill), and a decent copy of The Lodger.

Pleasure Garden was the first film directed by Hitchcock (in 1925), and it tells the story of a chorus girl, her room-mate, and the men in their lives. Like a lot of his early films, it's not a thriller, but it was entertaining enough.
Pleasure Garden (1925)

The Lodger was his third (his second is lost), and is about a Ripper-style serial killer rampaging through fog-ridden London, and the concerns of a landlady that it's her lodger. The lodger is played by Ivor Novello, who was a famous "matinee idol", and the original intention was for him to be the murderer, but they had to change the ending because The Powers That Be wouldn't let a hearthrob film star be a serial killer.
The Lodger (1927)

Helena and the robot dog have arrived back here this evening. Apparently the dog was not a great hit with their cat, and amazingly the batteries still haven't run out. So I'm in for a fun New Year.

Talking of which, the Champagne's cooling in the fridge, and there are another six hours to go. I'm not going to get away with just watching the Cypriot New Year, because Helena wants to see our one - apparently they have a spectacular firework display on the TV. I'm sure it'll be fun.

I hope you all have fun too. See you next year...

Monday, 29 December 2008

That Was The Year That Was: 2008

As the present year nears its end, it's that time to go through the thrills and spills of 2008, as seen on this blog:


I began the year extolling the advantages of celebrating it in another time zone - Eastern European Time being 2 hours ahead of UK time, and noting the passing of the Cyprus Pound as they entered the Eurozone. The transition over the next few weeks was painless, though they only got the Pound in 1960, so some of the older people there still think in Shillings...


The seemingly endless Presidential campaigns did actually come to an end when Dimitris Christofias was elected President of Cyprus. He's since entered into direct negotiations with the Turkish Cypriot leader on the reunification of the island - although it doesn't seem to be going smoothly. Here's hoping for progress in 2009.


I got a laptop, which was faulty and was quickly replaced by the one that Bee brilliantly christened "The Silver Surfer". I also converted my desktop machine to Linux, though it was another two months before my flat became a Microsoft Free Zone.


This month saw the beginning of Wordy Wednesday, which was partly an attempt to complement Jean Knee's "Wordless Wednesday", and partly a poor imitation of Tracy's rambling style. I've pretty much managed every week since, using timed posts on the odd occasion when I've not been around. It's great because it gives my blogging week some structure, and I think helps keep me regular (with my posts, that is).


Instead of attempting to travel on a Bank Holiday, I spent the time off writing a blog post about the pointlessness of going anywhere on such an occasion. Which was all very well, but what the hell am I going to write about next year?


I bought a new rugged mobile phone. I think I've used it only a handful of times in the last six months. And I've not dropped it on concrete yet. The best thing about it is that it has a more advanced display, so I've been able to put a picture of Aimilia Kenevezou as its wallpaper.


I did have a near miss with the phone, though, when I left it in a hotel in Scotland. A much bigger problem was the fact that I also lost my keys on the journey home. Looking back, I'm slightly ashamed that I got so stressed about this, but not being able to get into your home is somewhat disconcerting.


Not content with a trip to Scotland, I went abroad again this month, spending a family day in Wales. I hardly ever see my sister, so this was a really special event. And, I actually remembered to take my camera and get some photos I could post up!


I had a go at writing a horoscope. Although my predictions were frighteningly accurate, I decided not to give up the day job after all. I think in hindsight that this was a good move, as it would have been terrible of me to put all of those charlatan psychics out of work in the current economic situation.


The supermarkets started to get tough on the issue of reusable bags. I have to say that it's rare nowadays that I forget to take mine.


My old piano broke down, and was replaced almost straight away by a new one. Just in time for my annual tradition of playing Christmas carols. The other aspect of this tradition is that I don't get any better at playing them from one year to the next.


I participated in Bee's Secret Santa, and had fun faking up a picture, though looking at all of the flaws in it, I wish I was better at that sort of thing.

The absolutely best thing about this year, though, has been those of you who have been good enough to read and comment on my idiotic ravings. Because without you I wouldn't still be doing this.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

I, Robot

As with last year, Christmas was delayed a day until Boxing Day, when Helena arrived. Considering that nothing was open on Christmas Day, meaning that I had to plan ahead and have been faced with ever dwindling food supplies, I think I did well to resist the temptation to start on the Stollen Cake before she got here.

I had to get up early as well, so that I could wrap her presents. This year she had asked for a robot dog. His name is Wrex the Dawg, and he's certainly a character.

Of course, this is the robotic equivalent of a dog, so instead of Pedigree Chum he eats batteries - lots of them in several different sizes. He also talks, breaks wind, urinates noisily, and does more tricks than your average mutt.

For example, he can play dead: "I've been hit... it's okay... you go on ahead... don't worry about me... ahhhh...", before asking whether or not his performance rates an Oscar. He can identify obstacles so that he doesn't bump into anything. Unfortunately, this doesn't work when he's reversing.

After Helena had been here an hour I was praying that the batteries would quickly run out. Unfortunately battery technology has progressed a lot since I was a lad, and they still haven't. I've been a bit less irritated by him since she let me have a go.

There's a lot to be said for the mechanical version. It doesn't smell, it won't run up huge bills at the vet, try and steal whatever you're eating, and in a few weeks when the novelty has worn off and it's forgotten about it won't matter.

A dog really can just be for Christmas...

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Wordy Wednesday: Christmas Special

No Escape

The above picture is of a Christmas tree. In my flat. This is a first, but Helena was insistent that I should have one, and decorated and brought this one with her when she visited last weekend. It adds an otherwise absent festive feel to the place, which I must admit is quite nice.

There should be a star on the top, but it keeps falling off, and now I can't find it.

Cooking Book

I had two seperate deliveries of books yesterday. The first was Chris' "Ingredients of a Good Thriller", which Amazon had given an ETA of New Year's Eve, so it was nice to get it before Christmas.

I spent some time reading through it a little quickly. Disappointingly the Greek translation is not yet available, but that aside it's very readable and is the sort of thing that may well inspire you have a go at that writing lark. Though I'm going to wait until his "Ingredients of a Good Blog" comes out...

Good Thrillers

The other parcel contained several months of reading. Four crime novels - two Agatha Christie and two Greek authors. One of them is an Inspector Haritos novel by Petros Markaris. I know I keep raving about him, but his books are available in English, and I'd recommend anyone who likes crime fiction to try them.

And Finally

I hope that all of you and your families have a great Christmas.

Monday, 22 December 2008

One Careful Owner

Nasa have announced that they're selling a couple of their Space Shuttles. Although I wasn't planning to change my car in just yet, it has got me thinking. There would be definite advantages to owning your own space ship:

Pulling Power: Women think the stars are romantic, and now you can take her to see them. Just don't get too geeky and start naming them all. Oh, and goodbye Mile High Club, Hello Zero Gravity Sex.

Easy Commute: There's very little traffic in space, and no speed limits. Sell your house, live in a really cheap part of the world like a millionaire, and still be the first in to the office each day.

Handy for Shopping: There's a roomy boot (trunk in American), which will hold up to 24,000 kilos (53,000 lb in American). Even Bee can't buy that many shoes in one go, surely?

The Ultimate SUV: It uses an astronomical amount of fuel, holds eleven people and won't fit in your garage. Your average SUV freak would part with vital organs for one of these. It's amazing that they only think they'll be able to sell two of them.

Of course, as with all "bargains", there's usually a catch. Otherwise the current owners wouldn't be so eager to part with them:

Zero Gravity Sex: This is likely to take some practice and care. Fluids have a nasty habit of floating around. Also, be careful not to inadvertently knock any of the guidance controls - it's a big universe, and there's no GPS up there.

Expensive Commute: At a cost of $1.5 billion per journey, you might want to consider a private jet instead.

Not Handy for the Shops: Parking is going to be a little bit of an issue, even in the US. Most shopping malls don't have their own 2 mile-long runways.

Poor Safety Record: Although most 4x4 nuts don't mind the fact that their vehicles are a lot less safe in a crash, even they may be a little dismayed by the fact that the shuttle has blown up twice in 100-odd journeys.

Anyway, I'm still wondering whether or not they'll give me a good enough trade-in on my Skoda to make the monthly payments bearable...

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Death of a Jelly Baby

I never could get the hang of chemistry at school. You'd mix together two innocuous substances, burn them, get a funny smell and that would demonstrate one thing, then you'd do it all again with two other substances, get much the same result and that would prove something else. Then you'd repeat this for several years and have to sit an exam at the end of it all. Which I failed, of course.

Maybe all the teachers needed was to make the subject more relevant to real life. Apparently some of them have already begun this, as exmplified by the "Screaming Jelly Baby" experiment. Supposedly this demonstrates respiration - the use of oxygen to transfer energy, and involves giving a jelly baby an oxidising agent.

It just looks like any other incomprehensible chemistry to me, but at least the one here is entertainingly filmed:

Have a good weekend!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Kill or Cure

You know Dawn of the Dead, the classic film where zombies go on the rampage around a shopping mall? It's one of my all time favourite films. I don't know if they've remade it yet (I seem to remember they might have done), but just in case I thought I'd rehearse for a part while I was at my local supermarket.

I'm full of cold, and feeling sorry for myself. I'm not actually ill, but I can't sleep, I'm sore from coughing and sneezing, and I'm doing an even better than usual imitation of a zombie.

Perhaps driving to a supermarket in this state wasn't the best of ideas - I ought not to be half-undead in charge of a dangerous vehicle, where a split second loss of concentration could cause injury or death. Having said that, I still think that my trolley manouevering skills are better than a lot of the mums. They're so distracted by any "Special Offers" that they don't even notice their screaming kids, so they're not going to realise that they're seconds away from crippling someone. It's not as if I'd ever get distracted...

Anyway, you'll be pleased to know that no major mishaps befell me today. Which is just as well, as I'd hate to deprive you of a post.

One of the symptoms of my current debilitating condition is that I'm ravenously hungry. There's a handy guide to whether or not one should attempt to eat anything. It's either "Feed a flu, starve a cold", or "Starve a flu, feed a cold". I can never remember. I hope it's the latter, otherwise I'm doomed.

It's definitely important to take care of myself. So I've bought things that I don't normally ever have, such as Jelly Babies, chocolate, Pringles. As well as Lucozade and four boxes of tissues (which just about lasted me the trip home). Oh and some brandy. For medicinal purposes, of course.

And I've bought some extra spicy pickled onions. And some anti-indigestion medicine, which I'm expecting to need...

I also got £2.50 off my bill, due to points that accumulate on the loyalty card when you buy things and, now, when you reuse bags. Something that I've been doing fairly regularly. Unfortunately my loyalty card isn't really mine. It's my ex-wife's. So I never know when I should take money off. I should do sometimes, since I contribute to it. What I really ought to do is end four years of moral dilemma by getting my own card, but this only occurs to me when I'm at the checkout. By which time I want to get home, not stand around waiting at the Customer Service desk.

So now I've got an evening of Jelly Babies, pickled onions and Brandy to look forwards to. If that doesn't kill this bug, nothing will...

From recent experience, I'd advise against eating jelly babies whilst blogging. You get that white icing sugar stuff all over the keyboard.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Wordy Wednesday


As the song ought to go: "Tis the Season to be Sick". Anndi and her family have been suffering lately, and Helena had the puking lergy at the weekend. It didn't last that long, thankfully, and it manifested itself before she came to visit me, so I didn't get to see her, and hopefully I won't get whatever it was either.

However, on Tuesday morning I woke up with a cold. How does that happen? I was okay when I went to sleep. Where did viruses come from in the middle of the night? I'm hoping it won't be too bad, especially since a group of us are going out for a Christmas meal, which I'd rather not miss.


Last week, on Friday, former President of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos died of small cell lung cancer, having been seriously ill in hospital for about three weeks.

He was an important figure in the Island's political history - having been involved in most of the major events of the last 50 years or so. When the Island got its independence from the evil Imperialist Brits in 1960, he was made Minister of the Interior. He was 24 years old.

When I was 24, I was given 3 members of staff to manage for a few months. I did such a great job of this that I've never been given (or wanted) that particular responsibilty again. I can't begin to imagine being in charge of the police, public order, etc, even of a relatively small country.

Being President is presumably a whole lot worse. I bet you spend most of your time crisis-managing, reacting to events, and trying to stop a total disaster, whilst pretending that it's all part of your carefully thought out and well run plan. I don't envy Obama.

Ghosts of the Past

The other evening I watched "Sunset Boulevard". This is a black comedy about Hollywood. Gloria Swanson plays a has-been silent film actress who hopes to make a comeback and work once more with Cecil B DeMille. Some of the characters (such as DeMille and Buster Keaton) play themselves. Others, like Swanson and Erich von Stroheim play people similar to themselves (Swanson was a has-been silent film actress making a comeback, and von Stroheim really had directed films starring her in the good old days).

It's a good enough film, and I can recommend it, but I expect that real film-buffs who know all of the people would appreciate it even more.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Satanic Posts, The Number of the Beast, and Superstitious Blogging

This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six.
- Rev 13:18 (NRSV)
What's in a number? Tracy was so worried about her post number 666 that she got Bee to write it instead. Other people avoid 13 (especially in the US, it seems). The Chinese are famous for their belief that numbers can be lucky or unlucky.

Over the years, people have been very interested in turning names into numbers, and this is one possible interpretation of the Biblical 666.

In addition, numbers were written using letters in Latin and Ancient Greek. So 666 in Latin could be DCLXVI. The New Testament was written in Greek, and 666 could be written χξς´ , and is in some ancient Biblical manuscripts.

I once read a book on numerology. It said that you were supposed to write A=1, B=2, and so on, and then you could calculate the values of people's names. For example, "Polka" gives 55, "Dan, The People's Blogger" 206, and "Rambling thoughts of the Neverending Mind" 405.

Looking at the title of Tracy's post, and converting the numbers and symbols into what Bee actually typed you get: "TRACY HAS ASKED ME TO DO POST [POUND SIGN] SIX SIX SIX [THREE DOTS]", which adds up to, erm, 666. Coincidence? Or are there dark forces at work?

Actually, I have to confess that I tried a large number of variations (for example "Six hundred and sixty six dot dot dot", etc) until I hit on one that made the magic total. Incidentally, the title of my post also adds up to 666.

In any case, 666 might not be the Number of the Beast. According to Biblical scholars, various manuscripts of Revelations, including one dating back to the 5th Century, actually give the number as 616. And Tracy's 616th post certainly contains a number of beasts...

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Sercret Santa

Bee asked us to come up with a gift for a selected blogger, which we would buy them if we had the time, money, or whatever.

So, if I win millions in the lottery before Christmas, I will be buying Petra the following wonderful gift.

You will get a fully fitted IKEA kitchen to your specifications. No expense spared, and with all the latest clever Swedish technology. It will also come, appropriately enough, with The Swedish Chef, the ultimate in labour saving devices. As long as you're not too fussy about what you eat.

Before you get your hopes up, though Petra, it's only fair of me to point out that I don't actually play the lottery. But it's the thought that counts, right?

And Many thanks to my Secret Santa, Chat Blanc at Wit's Bitch for her wonderfully thoughtful virtual gift!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Wordy Wednesday


I bought a box set of Charlie Chan films at the weekend. I've never seen any, so I thought it would be worth a shot. The only problem is that the box is good value (£30) for six films, but if you end up not liking them, it starts looking a bit pricy.

Helena and I watched the first one. It was okay, but I was a little disappointed. The story was a bit lame. It turns out that these are a set of the later films (starring Sidney Toler and made in the mid 1940s), which aren't considered as good. However, I think we will end up getting through them, and I will keep a look out for the earlier ones.


This week I've been following the Athens riots on the news. You've probably heard about them. The police shot dead a 15-year-old youth who was part of a group who may or may not have attacked their car. This appears to have been used as a pretext for anti-establishment trouble makers to start wrecking the place.

The violence has occurred all over the country, turning streets into war zones. In Athens hundreds of shops, banks and other properties have been smashed up, burnt out, etc. As of yesterday evening, they were saying that while there were still episodes, they appeared to be easing off a bit.

Probably the least economically damaging piece of violence, but very symbolic, was the burning of the large Christmas tree in Constitution Square - this is a bit like destroying the tree in Times Square New York.

No Tree

As usual, I won't have a tree, or indeed any decorations. Bah Humbug! I did, however, rashly agree to do Bee's Christmas Exchange thing, so there will be a special "Wordless Thursday" post tomorrow.


As you know, I'm not a follower of football. However it's been impossible to ignore the Cypriot Anorthosi team, who have got further in the European something-or-other-league than ever before, and have become national heros. Last night they were beaten 1-0 by the Greek Panathenaikos team, and are now out of the league. Or something.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Tragic Life Stories

Quite by chance, Kat's post today is about books as well. I won't do her meme, as my answer to most of the questions would probably be "Erm, don't know."

I went into a bookshop at the weekend. This isn't something I've done much of since I decided to limit my reading where at all possible to Greek. For some strange reason, my local literary retailers still insist on selling the English versions of their products. So I wasn't there to buy books.

In a rare display of brilliance, or at least common sense, someone realised that WHSmith (a British newsagent and bookseller) had a section full of DVDs which probably wasn't making much money, since they didn't have a large enough variety to compete with the likes of HMV, so they moved the Post Office there. This caused me a lot of confusion the last time I wanted to post something, since the old premises was surrounded by boards and signs telling me that a building society was coming soon, but not giving me any hints about where the Post Office had gone.

Whilst I was waiting in the long queue, I noticed that next to the "Biography" section, WHSmith now have "Tragic Life Stories". It seems strange that they have enough books to go into this section, and enough readers who want this particular specialism.

Funny Picture By
A tragic story

I can imagine that a lot of biographies contain tragic elements, and I can also imagine a lot of people who like reading biographies, but tragic ones? "So, what type of books are you interested in?" "Oh, I always read tragic life stories." Why? Do some people feel better about themselves by reading about others who've had really shitty existences? Or are they masochists? Or people looking for a reason to reach for the razor blades?

Talking of which, years ago there was a character known as "Suicide Sid" in the area where I used to live. He earned this title after taking an overdose of paracetemol, and living to tell the tale. I suspect that he was more interested in attention than in actually doing away with himself. I used to spend a lot of my time in the local pub drinking with a retired friend, sadly no longer with us. "Suicide" came over one evening and remarked that he often saw us both in there. "Are you father and son?", he asked. My friend said that we were. "What do you do?", was the next question. "We're both out of work balloon pilots." I don't know whether or not he believed this - nor did he find it funny - he just moped his way to the next group of people at the bar.

I've no idea what became of "Suicide Sid". Maybe he's the subject of one of those tragic books? I hope not...

Saturday, 6 December 2008


I've been feeling the cold this week. Not because it's been particularly Arctic here, though according to the news they've had snow in Chris's end of the country (see picture above - Chris is third from the left). And not because I'm getting old. Simply because I've been driving to work.

Normally I'm able to walk, but because I was away, I had to drive to and from the hotel. This wasn't massively time consuming - about 5 or 10 minutes, but because the hire car was outside in the carpark, it was necessary to de-ice it.

Even when I do have to drive my car, it's usually kept in its garage these days, so it's about 4 or 5 years since I've had to worry about ice. Luckily there was a service station next to the hotel, so I was able to get some de-icer spray and a scraper on the first cold morning.

I remember the days before they invented the de-icer stuff. Or maybe no-one had told me about it. When I was doing teacher training, the second term (between Christmas and Easter) was spent in a school in Windermere, which was quite a long way from where I was living in Lancaster. Another two of my house mates were doing their teaching practice in Kendall (where they make the Mint Cake), and since I was the only one with a car, I used to take them to their school.

So the three of us would go to my car, scrape the ice off the windscreen, prise the doors open, and set off. By the time we hit the first roundabout (about 30 seconds), everything would be freezing up again, and I would be swerving round it reassuring my housemates by yelling "I can't see a f**king thing!". Perhaps I should have been an airline pilot. "Hello this is your captain speaking. Say your prayers, folks!"

My car was rather old and the heater had long since stopped working. Visibility was usally restored by the time we hit the M6. I think that my passengers would have preferred not to be able to see at this point in the journey, as my tendency to overtake police cars at 80 MPH unnerved them somewhat. I never got done for speeding, which I think proves that they were wrong to be so worried.

In any case, it never got this bad:

Have a great weekend, and if it is icy in your part of the world, please drive carefully.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Wordy Wednesday - Talking Shit

Okay, so how many of you have just read the title of this post and said to yourselves, "Same as always, then?". Please don't answer that.

Years ago, they had two designers on a TV programme re-designing the toilet. They looked at why current models are so, em, crap. One problem is that the British Standard that addresses the ability of Water Closets to send whatever one has deposited on its way to the sewers is possibly not demanding enough.

They use something that is the size and shape of a ping pong ball. If they pull the chain and ball is propelled out of the pipe at the back, then the crapper in question is deemed fit for purpose.

A piece of shit, apparently.

This is perhaps TMI, but I personally do not shit ping pong balls. If I did, I would be seeking immediate medical advice. Or giving up eating spag. bol. at the local sports centre (the food there's tasteless anyway).

All of which explains why I seem to spend so much of my time armed with a toilet brush. Again, TMI, I suppose.

The designers decided to check out the state of the art in Dunny Design (as our Australian friends would say), by going to Japan. There they perform more realistic tests, including cramming huge amounts of toilet paper into the bowl. Having said that, I suspect that using the facilities there would be rather scary:

This is a Japanese Lavatory Control Panel. The ones they have in NASA for launching rockets are probably less complicated. Though I bet they don't have such entertaining symbols on their buttons.

Talking about NASA, my cistern has started making noises that sound like it's about to lift off. Presumably this is something to do with air getting into the water filling mechanism. Maybe I could tune it to play specific notes, and make it an honorary member of the Blogger Band - ideal for performing Latrine Dance music.

Sheet Music

On which fragrant note I'll leave you.

I'm away again this week - back at the weekend.