CHITTER AND TASSY

CHITTER AND TASSY

Do you smoke cigarettes? If I’d asked you this in the UK  40 or 50 years ago, you’d probably have said yes, yes of course I do, and have thought it an absurd and redundant question. Here on Kythnos everyone smokes a great many cigarettes, and really it wouldn’t unnerve me if I saw a Cycladean dog or a stray Kythnos cat airily enjoying a handrolled tab (Geordie word), or a well earned, and appropriate to animals, proprietary brand snout. Unlike in the UK, where smokers these days look all too furtive and abashed, Greek smokers swagger and flaunt their toxic if charismatic wares. A favourite pose for both genders, is to be getting into your car with two bottles of drink and a loaf of bread the size of a small dog, with the fag majestically in your puckering gob, as you have no spare hand to hold it. It takes me back some 50 years, to the time when workmen in your house always had a fag sat like a tiny poodle on their left ear, and a pencil stub on their right. I wonder if they ever ignited the pencil by mistake, or tried to take down some vital dimensions using a snout, and thereby crushing and destroying it and cussing their head off as a result.

A cross-wired experience like that almost happened to me once. It was the summer of 1986, I was living with my wife Annie in Cleator Moor, West Cumbria, and editing a lively fiction magazine called Panurge. One day I needed to do two very urgent things: have a swift piss, and get some coal for the fire. I conscientiously got the coal first from outside, and then unable to wait any longer, went into the bathroom to let fly. To my horror and consternation, I only just stopped myself flinging the hundredweight of coal down the toilet, which by false analogy looked of about the same epistemological category as an open coal fire. Had I done so, it would have needed quite some garish hand-poking hydraulics and taxing plumbing skills that I, guess what, did not at all possess. Those were the days…

60 or so years ago, if a woman especially was suffering from her nerves,  a GP might well have suggested she take up smoking, to help her to relax. These were the golden days of uninhibited fag smoking, when many people chose Craven A (I like the first word, do you, as in craven liar) because of its unique cork tip, the sunny notion being that it offered a kind of filtering process that not only protected you from dangerous tars and chemicals, but was actually positively beneficial. A packet of Craven A was effectively a month’s supply of vitamins, or a stone of bolstering eating apples, or a gallon of sustaining tonic as in Buckfast Tonic Wine.

I had a chubby boyhood friend whose real name was Cyril, but whose apposite nickname was Tits, and he made interesting obscene puns about Buckfast. Given that it is the name of a pious abbey, where the monks supplement their income by making the alcoholic wine, it was just a little on the disrespectful side. His notion was that consumption of the wine induced super-speed copulation, though I don’t think he ever used or understood that last word till he was about 58. Tits also had his own unique vocabulary, which remarkably I still use myself, and even more remarkable, Ione, who sometimes adopts my favourite colloquial expressions, also uses some of these words.

‘Chitter’ meaning good. ‘Tassy’ meaning good. The first Hindi-style epithet sounds like it might have come from the British Indian army, as in the not unracist TV comedy, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. ‘Tassy’ sounds like it might be a corruption of the French. I still use those words when I am talking to Ione, and I have been using them regularly since about 1960.Tits also had first rate metaphors for contempt, so that if he didn’t like somebody, and there were a lot of people Tits did not like, he would say, ‘I’ve shit better’. What a wonderfully vicious, vitriolic insult and of such exemplary economy. It is on the lines of ‘You are a waste of bloody space’ but with so much more truculent and 100% confident venom.  He also addressed his frequent farts, and chastised them (visually a very interesting idea) with the words, ‘Get out, you bugger, and walk!’ the idea being they were immoral and parasitic creatures who lazed inside of him and should be walking on their own two or possibly four vaporous legs.

Cultural differences can be profound. There is the intriguing sight in many a Kythnos cafe of a very rugged and hardened male who might have been fishing in all confounding weathers for forty odd years, now looking most oddly like a Noel Coward hand-fluttering vamp of dubious gender. It takes you aback is all I can say, and it is bloody hard to stifle your response at times. It is all down to the fags again (no pun intended if you are an American reader). Being aware that a filtering tip of some sort is better than the spendid old days when, in the UK context, High Tar fags like Capstan Full Strength and Gold Flake were what a real man might consent to puff at, their Greek counterparts have decided to embrace the bloody old cigarette holder. In case you cannot picture it, it is a long thin cylindrical black tube, rather like a stick of smooth liquorice with its inside bored through. The only thing missing from these stony malaka-cussing XYY guys, as they flaunt their fag holders and waggle their hands like music hall queens, is the twin set and pearls. I keep waiting for them to wiggle the fag holder in my direction, and in an attempt to furnish me with a bit of makeshift English, cry out like a Cycladean Dick Emery, on a bad day, ‘Come on now, my darlings. Chase me, girls!’

A greater irony is the way that two local health professionals, buddies of mine, who both chainsmoke and beb tsipuro brandy like there is no tomorrow, cannot restrain themselves from giving me very helpful well-being tips.  I neither smoke nor consume tsipuro, which despite the fervent encomia of many a Greek, tastes to me like petrol, and not the unleaded variety either. Many is the time I have had an off-duty Cycladean nurse or doctor pal, cheerily blowing smoke in my face and exhaling tsipuro fumes at my blinking pupils. Pause and a puff, and an exhale and a swig, and then, ‘You really should take vitamin supplements, seriously. Also wrap up against the sun and use plenty of cream.’

Oh yeah, I say to myself, wouldn’t that be several varieties of carcinogenic tar wafting their euphoric way down to your health professional’s lungs, via your throat, palate, nose, lips and everywhere else? Isn’t it true that there is absolutely no organ or appurtenance of the body that cannot turn cancerous, including and this is a proven fact, the imagination?  Ah malaka, they joust at me affectionately, ah my English malaka friend, you fucking malaka Catman malaka! You will notice, by the way, I have stopped italicising that all purpose punctuation mark masquerading as a proper Greek word, and will continue to do so from now on.

All over Albania where Ione and I visited in 2013, the cafes have prominent big signs saying Ndalohet piye duhani  which means, Smoking Forbidden. My daughter smoked copiously in those days, but thankfully no longer does. When she was polite enough one night to walk outside a Durres bar to light up, the kindly Shiptars looked on in baffled horror, and insisted she stay inside to enjoy her fag in foggy comfort along with them. By analogy, the Kythnos Health Centre in Loutra,  has a conspicuous No Smoking sign too. You wouldn’t need to put that up in Cumbrian medical surgery of course, but here there are several reasons why you should, or maybe why it is so to speak flogging a dead allogos or more likely gaidharo. A year ago I went there with a very sore throat, and behold the very morose and elderly Rumanian doctor on duty was puffing away languidly at a fag, while stood exactly underneath the prohibitory sign. He took me into the examination room still puffing away, asked me to open my mouth, poked in an ice lolly stick, and narrowly avoided dropping cigarette ash into my open gaping English maw.

“Drink some tea, “ is what he croaked by way of reasoned Rumanian therapeutics. Then without another word and still sucking leisurely at his twenty seventh Marlboro of the day, he walked off as morose as a Bucharest undertaker.

Advertisements

APHRODISIACS MADE EASY

APHRODISIACS MADE EASY

(You can always contact John Murray personally at john@writinginkythnos.com)

Is it possible to dazzle your friends, and even mollify your numerous and perfectly justified enemies, and seduce your wife’s husband’s wife’s husband’s wife, with food that takes but a few scant minutes, and which any fool could do?

Yes, yes it bloody well is. Although usually it is quite impossible to cook something very good in a trice, and with minimal preparation, here are two delicious dishes that really are a piece of katoura to quote the Greek (hint, the last four letters convey the English scientific term in contracted form).

AVOCADOS A LA BREATHTAKING CYCLADES

I made the name up, but my wife Annie used to make a special request for this dish about once a month. I have never met anyone who doesn’t lick their lips after finishing it…aside from my fastidious  animals, who will not tolerate any vegetables at any price, not even exquisite mushroom-stuffed aubergines with a savoury wine and tomato sauce, as favoured by the artist Monet.  Incidentally  I thought this animal qua carnivore status was a universal rule, until around 1986 I met a young proprietor-chef in South Cumbria, a posh tousle-haired genius of 25, who gave his massive 2 year-old hound only spare cooked veg to eat. The problem was when the dog wolfed down scraps of meat or fish, there was this hellish problem of, decorous puckering of 25 year-old’s very handsome face in the presence of my politely smiling wife, the wind you know, the wind

Quite.

Melt some butter in a small pan. Add a very generous sprinkling of soya sauce and stir in. Add a tblsp of tomato puree and ditto. Then add about a tsp of sugar and stir. Juggle with adding more of any of the items, if it is too dry or too wet. And no, don’t ask that stupid and redundant question, just use your common sense. It should be a nice smooth sauce.

Now lengthways divide a nice ripe avocado (not rock-hard nor ripe to blackness and hence horrible). Remove the stone and discard, or plant and make a tree out of it, if you are pitifully deluded and live in the monsooning UK or Eire. Simply fill the hole in each avocado half with the sauce, and you have a gourmet starter for two. If you fancy her/him afterwards, and you get anywhere worth going, tell them you learnt about it through this bloody old blog whose previous post was about the rancidity of the UK news media, the Greek Fascists, and other allied subjects.

FRIED FENNEL  ANTIPASTI

Next a dish I will never make in Kythnos, and I doubt even in Athens you can buy the fennel vegetable (not the herb). Fennel is a lovely thing and there is a  great pasta sauce you can make with it involving fried pistachios and luscious cream (and yup, that is one son of a gun of an aphrobloodydishyache rocket-launch I can assure you, squire, madam). They can also be boiled and stuffed with cheese and olives plus the softened fennel flesh, then browned under a grill. Easier than those though, and again a gourmet and easy-as-pie procedure is the following. I found it buried in a cookbook so good it wasn’t even there as a recipe, just hiding in the bulk of the text, as, for this master/mistress chef lady, her stray afterthoughts were as interesting as her main preoccupations. She also included enjoyable literary quotes with many of her recipes, and you can’t do better than that. Refer TROUT A LA JEAN GIONO, and the writer I’m talking of is of course, Elizabeth David.

Take one large fennel bulb or two small ones meaning enough for 4 people. Cut and discard the bizarre celery style excrescences at the top, or give them to your kitten to play with, if you want to see it truly baffled for once in its exhaustingly inquisitive life (an interesting aside here. I have a Russian friend, a writer with perfect English, but once in an email she got her gears wrong and instead of writing ‘baffled’ wrote ‘buffled’. Isn’t that such a better and absolutely buffling word altogether. And wouldn’t ‘the buffle’ be a perfect name for a new dance, even better than the rumba or the shake?)

Then lay the fennel on its side and remove with a large v-shaped incision the central hard and inedible portion. Do not give this to the poor and indigent or they will be painedly incredulous and fling it in your face. You now have all the edible fennel, and you chop it into rough bite-sized portions(rough and aphrodisiacs, geddit?). You then shake them with flour to coat them all over(easiest in a plastic bag, which must be dark  olive green and strictly no other colour permissible). You put them carefully in a large frying pan/skillet, add plenty of olive oil, stick on low heat, and 90% cover with a lid or plate. Let them slowly brown, and turn them when they need turned. ( When is that, asks an inspired idiot-savant  from the back, the same one who think the obligatory olive green carrier bag really is obligatory. Oh, when the Moldovan economy picks up, darling, or when you get fixed up after 40 years as a bachelor, and possibly fancy a culinary aphrodisiac into the bargain, or when they start putting world cinema on mainstream TV rather than that excremental  rubbish called Reality TV. Because if that is their notion of Reality, darling, I’d sooner be a full-blown Stranger to Reality and teach myself to fly and to see in the dark.

Once browned, serve them on small plates  alongside a nice bowl of expensive chutney or home-made torshi  pickle if you know how to do it. Anything with so called ‘curry powder in it’, avoid like bubonic  plague. Alas, its principal constituent, powdered fenugreek, is responsible for many a tragic amatory detumescence.

OK, I’m lying there. It is actually watching Reality TV gives you impotence and frigidity, not curry powder which merely makes your mouth smell like a pair of very antique but valueless 18th century underpants. It’s just that I don’t like curry powder, and Indians will laugh at you when you talk about it. Subcontinent chefs make individual masala mixtures of multiple spices, herbs, garlic, nuts, dahi yogurt, buttermilk etc, for individual dishes. Some of these masalas have as many as ten ingredients, and they don’t always stop at that, and sometimes use for decorative purposes Edible Silver Foil as well.

Vegetable shah jahan for example.

Well what do you expect, if you are cooking for a mighty Indian shah?

POSTSCRIPT. To soften i.e. detumesce  a rock-hard avocado, do as follows. In a paper bag not a plastic one, put your granitey avocado. Also put in either an apple or a banana and shove the bag in a dark place. The fruits give off a hypnotising and exquisite gas and that does the miraculous softening.

I could give the biochemical equations involved in the ripening process, but won’t. Here for alternative diversion is the proper chemical name for Biomin as used in many an anti-dandruff shampoo. It is:

2:4 sulphosuccinatedundecylenicmonoalkylolamide, or ‘sulph’ for short.

SYRIZA AND THE GREEK FASCISTS

SYRIZA AND THE GREEK FASCISTS

You can contact John Murray personally at john@writinginkythnos.com

I had been telling UK friends, as recently as yesterday, that Kythnos folk, being relatively cosseted islanders, didn’t get too excited about the elections won by  Syriza. Then I talked to a pleasant home-grown lady of about 75, who had lived in Canada many years and speaks good English. She was vigorously pro-Syriza, and like me, disliked the flagrantly racist way the Greeks had been written off as incorrigible idlers incapable of getting their monetary act together. All this because of too much olive oil, retsina, and rocket-powered ouzo. The truth is everyone on Kythnos and everywhere else in Greece, has at least two jobs, and works seven days a week, so to hell with them and their substanceless Eurofantasy. Later I talked about Syriza  to a very bright, very skinny, very  bearded architect with an office in the port. About 50, he is a real island lover, a devotee of Cycladean eesikhia and of  Greek Orthodox spirituality. He buys a coffee in the Paradisos every day, and a litre of water to wash it down. He also washes it down with about ten roll-ups, meanwhile chinwagging with his considerable number of pals. Being a very spiritual, very Orthodox man, he is classically apolitical and described the Greek mentality as always waiting for the next good thing and always being disappointed. The Canadian lady had put it otherwise. Tsipras the young leader might not realise his dream, but at least he was the only one formulating any kind of hope as opposed to bitter aka poisonous freebooting monetary medicine. He talked about giving back some dignity to Greeks, and it was a bloody long time since anyone had ever talked about that.

There was a bit of TV watching and acidulous commentary in the Glaros, but no excited bawling and shouting either for or against. Certainly nothing like the terrifying arguments over a tavli game, where they always look set to disembowel each other, and damn the paltry consequences, life sentence in an Athens clink included. The first time I heard a tavli row, I felt seriously worried, as the voices rose in ever higher circles of incandescent rage and indignation. I looked to the owner Chrisoula who just yawned and shook her head, as if to say the boys, the boys, they have to make themselves like ruffled peacocks squawking away over an idiotic backgammon game! True enough, ten seconds later, all was calm and pacific as the Aegean Ocean in August. One indicator of the truce was they were amiably hooting at some sarcasm offered by a man called Manolis from a village close to Igoumenitsa on the mainland. Manolis aged 50 always sits at a remote table and always has his head buried in a newspaper or magazine or book. His notion of social interaction is to offer some withering irony or juicy insult from his distant perch, and then await the howls of hectic laughter. He is very funny as he is so very bitter. I believe he was once married, but if he was I imagine him always sitting remotely from his wife on all occasions and hurling some mordant sarcasm at her in lieu of tender caresses and mollifying peck-peck endearments. I can’t see him ever going to marriage counselling, or if he did it would be 100 yards from the earnest female counsellor and the aeronautic insults at her too, for her damn impudence in asking him personal questions about his filthy temper and his considered attitude to tender amatory foreplay, malaka, malaka (wanker, fucking wanker!)

I have never been, but  Igoumenitsa is supposed to be one of the most boring towns of Greece, as well as a hub of international transport.  Manolis’s provenance means that his Greek is a sort of shotgun village dialect crossed with late 14th century Mandarin Chinese. I understand one word in three, and you’ve guessed it, every third word is malaka or malakya (wankerdom). The reason I mention Manolis at length, is that the island’s most prodigious gossip told me that Mano is in the Xrisi Avgi or Golden Dawn Fascists. Like all Kostas’s stories it is truly excellent five-star calumniation, but unfortunately like all those highly enjoyable 700 page novels in the 1980s, we have this thing called an Unreliable Narrator. What I love about Kostas is, he tells me I am a gossip not him, and then without drawing breath points at some innocent female soul aged 77 ambling  arthritically past, and sighs, she is a sex maniac with five simultaneous boyfriends! He to the left there with the ugly face had sex with his… and ten blood relatives follow… as Kostas has a prodigious memory as well as  three PhDs in Advanced and Fearless Vilification from Thessaloniki, Marburg and Zurich universities respectively. No, no, his job is simply a highly bureaucratic one, in a small and shambling office in Loutra, that gives him access to eye-opening personal details of absolutely everyone on the island. Instead of watching his back and any moderately offensive weapon that might just finish him off at dead of night, he democratically badmouths absolutely everyone on a strictly hoovering, all-inclusive fair’s, fair, now, principle (I was about to chuck in ‘eclectic’ and ‘catholic’ as part of the adjectival mix, but thought dammit, for once I will pay serious homage to Flann O’Brien and his Catechism of Cliche).

So no, I don’t think sour and sniping Manolis is a paid up Fascist, because even if he had once been, in say the impressively average 3.5 IQ Igoumenitsa chapter, he’d have sat 100 yards from all his fellow jackbooting savants, hurling brilliant splenetic sonnets at them, and telling them to take off their smelly boots and read a fucking book for a change. The only other evidence Kostas could  adduce, was that Mano openly said he didn’t like the many island  Albanians. Well, pardon me Kostas old boy, but it is par for the course to badmouth Kythnos Albanians, you yourself included. Kostas will then pout with disappointment, and slyly dodge the accusation by accusing another well-known Glaros drinker of being a Golden Dawner, on the grounds that as fervent Greek Orthodox he thinks it only fair to hate all Muslims. Kostas chuckles derisively, then points out that the same bigot really loves all the local Albanians, and is sunnily ignorant of the fact that half of Albania is Muslim. His best back-slapping mate is probably called Mehmet, but as Greeks always christen all male Albanians with Greek names, the bigot thinks his late hours yakk yakk buddy is actually called Panagiottis. Why, the imbecile probably even thinks that Panagiottis is an echt Albanian name. Finally, Kostas provides the amusing epilogue to all of this with his famous panoptic assertion.

This island is a fucking open mental hospital...”

Ha ha, yes yes. It sounds very good, very final and very judicious, but alas there is absolutely nowhere in the world where that isn’t true. New York, Mogadishu, Carlisle, Oxford, Baghdad, Shanghai, Moreton-in-the Marsh, Wyre Piddle, s’Hertogenbosch, Tegucigalpa? Find me anywhere in the world where that amusing condemnation is not blindingly true, and I will willingly consume my skoufos, my Greek woolly hat…

Apropos which, the Greek saying,  Apo pou kratei skoufo sou? , meaning ‘Where does your woolly hat come from?’ does not mean what it says literally. It is a veiled and pleasing  and highly nuanced obliquity, that means:

What kind of a person are you really?

No comment needed. However and unbelievably, the Golden Dawn newspaper is for sale in the port bookshop here. It has that ugly Fascist logo next to the title, and as there are about four copies, there must be at least four Goldies somewhere on the island. My evidence for thinking Manolis is not a Goldie, is that I’ve never seen him perusing that paper, and he is always reading something in the Glaros, and never does anything else but read, aside from flinging copious airborne insults. The journals he does read, look weighty non-pictorial ones to me, and in addition I have often seen him reading novels and works of non-fiction. Would a totalitarian Golden Dawner from suburban Igoumebloodynitsa, read literary novels and sometimes make approving reference to Kazantzakis, as if to confirm he has at times read the great Cretan author? Kiss my incredulous Kythno-Cumbrian arse is all I can say to that. In addition Manolis feeds and shelters no less than twenty Kythnos cats, and although he regularly calls them his malakas, he never sits anything like 100 disdainful yards from them. Believe me, he is no Goldie Fascist with a philofeline CV such as that….

Anyway only yesterday my old Preston pal, Alan Dent, editor of the remarkable Penniless Press, French translator, poet, polymathic brainbox, and last of the great uncompromising autodidacts, emailed me re Syriza’s victory. So, rather late in the day, I was able to tell him about the varieties of Kythnos interest,  strong, mild, and supremely indifferent. He pointed out the corresponding derision these days from the UK media, where ‘hard left’ is their favourite and completely autopilot term of moralising abuse. I couldn’t agree more. Someone like Tsipras has a vision of social justice and of allowing his countryfolk not to be strangled by Euro-austerity imposed as a religious (read absolutely and flagrantly irreligious) and brutally medicinal principle. My mind harked back a fair way, to when Neil Kinnock the Labour Party leader was trying to win votes by making saccharine election films where he was laughingly and far from charismatically paddling in the Welsh sea, exactly like a very low budget Galaxy advert. The only thing missing being the beautiful white horse, who I believe was paid nothing not even oats, for his appearance, and the long-haired handsome Amazon woman riding it. At the time, the great English TV dramatist Dennis Potter justly excoriated this supreme bit of emetic vulgarity, as precisely where British socialism was going. To talk about it crawling cowardly up its own arse would be flattering, as after all the arse is a very useful object and the anus is likewise absolutely indispensable. Try like Voltaire’s Cunegonde being minus a full backside, and you will see how far you get…regardless of the ambient ridicule.

Various UK Tory MPs with premature Alzheimers  cum paranoid schizophrenia, will frothingly tell you the BBC is riddled with the demonic presence of the hard left. If only, mate, is all I can say to that one. One of the great ironies of 30, 40 and 50 years ago, was the only really tough and fearless exploratory documentary slots, World In Action and John Pilger, were screened on the commercial capitalist ITV, not on bloody old pinko BBC, haha. The first one, interestingly, was screened in prime time at half past eight on a Monday night, when a great many sinners, British and international, were roundly shitting themselves at having their sins about to be exposed to searing scrutiny. Personally I find today’s BBC Panorama  would not offend a Daily Mail or Telegraph reader, and in fact some of their programmes are made by journalists who write for the latter. One was about exposing that terrifying robotic mannikin ‘socialist’ Tony Blair, the Palestinian/ West Bank consultant-supremo, who as a peacebroker and a passionate fighter for the tortured underdog, would make a good central heating plumber. Contrarily he is wonderful at sitting as quiet as a mouse on mega-business director boards, and a maestro at public speaking where he charges sums that would feed a West Bank street, not a family, for six  months.

One of the reasons I got out of the UK  in 2013, was that I could not stand its set-in-aspic, totally atrophied, wholly reactionary and stultifyingly unperceptive and myopic media. Listening to the BBC Radio 4 news programme Today,  never failed to make me want to throw up. The only interviewing technique the unamiable buffoons who run that show understand, is the provocative take-the-opposite stance, let’s play the devil’s advocate, and try and drive the Westminster eejit mad by the monotony of our rhetorical baiting. It was first begun by Robin  Day  on the old Panorama and has been swallowed wholesale by all these derivative newsdesk prepubertal adolescents, who all fancy themselves as latter day Ed Murrows. Even the matey  and youthful Channel 4 tyros are afflicted by the same rhetorical tic, so that even Krishna and Kathy both fancy themselves as lance-tilting Sir Robins. The mother of a friend of mine somewhere around 1960 once confided to me apropos her loquacious 9 year-old son, ‘He could talk the robin off a starch box’…and both of the perky Channel 4 News adolescents should take a cautionary note there. The one real moral and ethical and principled brain in the whole sorry outfit of UK news coverage, whether TV, radio, print or website, is that handsome white-haired gentleman of late middle years, Jon Snow, the boss of C4 news. He has a huge brain, a huge sense of humorous nuance, and, vitally, an understated but highly intelligent awareness of the stereoscopic complexity of all things economical, sociological, anthropological and political. He is a million miles away from that envious nagging adolescent of a news thug caricature, Radio 4’s John Humphrey. Humphrey who likes to do Panorama slots about detestable benefit cheats, reaches his natural level in his black jacket and black tie and black shirt as saturnine smileless TV Mastermind interrogator, where in terms of speed of verbal delivery he tries to outdo the freakish superbrain contestants answering 20 questions on their special subjects, of either Dorset Flora or Vedanta or Ouspensky or Leg  and Nylon fetishism as understood by the 1947-1948 Deputy Editor of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

As for the current Labour grotesques, not one of them is capable of sustained intelligent eloquence, by which I mean not fucking one. That is why the always prodigiously voluble Tory hobbledehoys, who know that they are unabashed moral detritus, and don’t give a damn, that is why they run rings round stammering, stuttering juveniles like Ed Miliband and, why make the no longer funny gag?, Ed Balls. They are not only stammerers, they lack all authentic visceral feelings and authentic visceral passions. And of course if you don’t feel, and you have no passions, you end up a mannikin moral gangster by default. Thus when the Tories decided to make it a quasi-criminal offence to be either mentally handicapped or physically disabled, and told the sorry, embarrassing inadequates, they would have to be medically assessed from now on for their gargantuan and outrageous benefits, guess what? Did Balls and Miliband, did, I ask you in all Kythniot Cycladean innocence, did old stammering Millyballs and old stuttering Millyband, kick up any malodorous shite about it?

Hardly, squire. They took a shallow breath, and queued up to be even horribler than the Tories. After 10 years on benefits, it was roundly mooted had roundly mooted Millyband and Millybollicks, any of these so-called quadriplegic cripples and mute depressives… why  not Euthanasia, Youth and Accidie, simple as that? That’ll show them that we mean business.

Or at least that’s what was rumoured on a massively popular, nay a truly virally trending right wing blog run by… dammit, dammit, forgotten his name.

IT DOESN’T MEAN CONSTIPATION

IT DOESN’T MEAN CONSTIPATION

(you can always contact John Murray personally at john@writinginkythnos.com)

I have been thinking about many and various things lately, here in leisurely Kythnos, but you’ll be pleased to know not about mortality, ill health, loose teeth, poltergeists, sexual perversion (OK, I’m lying with that one) or constipation. By the way, did you know that the Portuguese word constipacao emphatically doesn’t mean ‘constipation’? Isn’t that incredibly interesting? I personally think it’s inordinately interesting, and have told various people in various countries on average twenty times a year, and never failed to stop them open-mouthed in their meandering tracks…

I have been thinking of two things principally. The first being of those wild and whimsical fantasies that develop a bizarrely independent life, and a momentum of their own. The second being the idea of ‘solipsism’ which is certainly one of the nicest and assuredly most instructive words, in the English language.

First things first. A few days ago my adopted Kythnos kitten Billy Bob, developed some interesting and indelible muck around his top lip. It really looked as if he was trying to cultivate a pencil moustache, and given that he is only three months old, the effect was aesthetically striking.  I tried removing it with a brand new Brillo pad (just joking) but not only did Billy Bob not enjoy this protracted cleansing process, I couldn’t get rid of it anyway, no matter how long and patiently I rubbed away. I briefly thought about dabbing him with typewriter Tippex, but thought ah bollicks, who cares about it anyway, other than maybe exacting Ione if she were here, and wanted Billy Bob to look his dapper best. And Ione is in Mexico, so I can just lie and lie and lie about BB’s appearance, as I’m not on bloody old fb, posting updated profile photos of my touchingly beautiful face or BB’s equally stunningly handsome fizzog (like, not like? kiss, not kiss?). For sure, BB doesn’t care a damn about his appearance, nor does his stalwart buddy and newly expansive and all but cigar-puffing playmate, Cousin Rex. CR has gone from withdrawn mute to major uproarious antisocial lout in my sitting room, a sign of his massively improving mental health and possibly the subtly deteriorating counterpart in mine.

Here is a convincing symptom of my growing malaise, and I promise I am not making this up. A few days ago, I looked at Billy Bob and his smudgy moustache, and  said to him:

“Aha. I see you’ve got a job as a Hitler impersonator, have you?”

Billy Bob blinked, and wrinkled his excellent little tash, and did not deny my accusation. And of course to state the facts clearly, anyone less like Adolf Hitler would be hard to find, as BB is one of the gentlest of feline souls alive. For example, to imagine Billy Bob as anti-semitic, is laughable.

Later that same day, Cousin Rex was looking a bit painedly melancholy, God knows why, maybe because in existential terms it was easier all round to be a permanently morose autistic mute if your name was CR, and being happy all day was for him, after all, a bit of an exhausting and depleting ordeal. So, still full of my amiable fantasy, that was assuredly all mine, and no one else’s, I addressed Billy Bob again.

“It’s OK, “ I admonished him gravely, “doing Hitler impersonations all day, Billy Bob. But really what you should be doing is cheering up Cousin Rex…”

What is epistemologically important is, that for the few seconds I was saying it, I was entirely believing it. I was caught up in an absurdly whimsical imaginative fantasy, but for a few seconds it was my watertight ontological truth. Objectively Billy Bob had never even heard of Adolf Hitler, and even if he had he would not have known how to imitate him, nor why it would be something notionally amusing to a riveted human audience. I mean can cats or even kittens ever be said to be amused, or to seek to amuse human beings they come in contact with? They will play with you right enough, but I have never seen any cat or kitten smile, in the same way I have seen a dog smile. Nor could poor old BB, even though he loves him dearly, ever lucidly resolve to cheer up Cousin Rex by taking thought, girding his loins, and generously distracting him from his mordant melancholy, which in any case had clearly passed within about ten minutes, as I suddenly noted the deviant little bugger dancing gleefully on and fouling up my printer paper. I bawled something horribly obscene at CR, animadverting that he was, decorously put, ‘an absolute son of a whore’ which was not only highly inaccurate, but  was embellished with other very ugly and unseemly epithets, some of them in Cumbrian dialect. And remember that CR is not only a Greek, he is only a few months old…

I am 64 and have an Oxford degree in Sanskrit, Avestan and Old Persian, and have won the Dylan Thomas Award, and have reviewed translated fiction for the (truly excellent) Literary Review. Yet I seriously believed as a literal truth for a few seconds, that my rescued Greek street kitten Billy Bob, was frittering his hours away doing Reichsfuhrer impersonations. For once my parents’ headshaking and very nosy neighbour had been apparently right back in 1975, when she shook her incredulous head at the worrying news that I had recently taken a lowly factory job. It confounded all her colossal quantity of adamantine certainties, and led her to comment angrily, All that bloody education, all that taxpayers’ money has been bloody well wasted!

Far from it. I bet she will never write a blog post, or even a quill pen missive, where the Portuguese word ‘constipacao’ and the English word ‘solipsism’ appear in the first two paragraphs. But her aside, I have two relevant observations to make here. When you are a tiny child up until the age of say about ten, you regularly play at pretend games don’t you? You are a cowboy or a nurse or a doctor or a battle soldier, or a Mummy or a Daddy (still quite a tolerable little role play, especially if you are dramatically unrestrained, and even when you are 64) and for that time you inhabit the identity entirely. It is not the case that you are a six year old psychotic, because of course you can snap out of the role at will, and without any disjunction, and then re-enter the same role with equal facility.

In artistic terms Charles Dickens was a master at making comedy out of this kind of imaginative fantasy. Remember Pete Postlethwaite brilliantly playing  one-legged Silas Wegg in TV’s  Our Mutual Friend, he who sat outside the posh people’s house, with his scrawled sign saying he would run errands for a paltry remuneration? Destitute Wegg had got it into his laughably snobbish head, that he had strong connections with the posh household, none of whom he had even spoken to. He even gave them invented names and gradually took it for granted that that was what they were called.

Yet he knew so little about the inmates that he gave them names of his own invention as: ‘Miss Elizabeth’, ‘Master George’, ‘Aunt Jane’, ‘Uncle Parker’ – having no authority for any such designations, but particularly the last – to which as a natural consequence, he stuck with great obstinacy.

As for solipsisms. The dictionary definition is not as convenient as my own version, which is that a solipsism is a stuck and irretrievable scenario, a case of a dog determinedly chasing its tail but never ever getting there and doomed to fail. A paradigm solipsism would be the case of the people who we class as Bores. I have thought lots about this word and this quality of personality, and as a novelist I find it truly fascinating (yawn, how fucking boring of me, what). But instead of defining what a bore is, because we all know what a bore is, we should reflect on the fact that one reason a bore is boring, is because he or she does not know that he is boring. It is a stuck situation and a solipsism. Someone who perpetually monologues in a tedious and repetitive manner, does not know that they are tedious and repetitive, because if they did they would stop being so.

The more interesting thing is that Bores like everyone and everything else in life, are functional and structural entities, meaning they are subject to sociological and biographical influences as much as anyone and anything else. Two examples here. An amiable and at times likeable man of about 60, who I knew very well back in the UK, call him Dick, was definitely boring, and to be as consistently dull as he was, seemingly oblivious to the fact. He had an armoury of clichéd verbal formulae, which is a sure sign of emotional as well as other kinds of dullness. In any five minutes, when explaining any sequence of ideas or connections about say house-building or tax or savings or getting on with your grown up kids, he would always say at least ten times,  ‘at the end of the day’ meaning, ‘so in sum, this is how I see it’. He could have varied it with, ‘So you see’, or ‘So isn’t it true that..?’ Or even, ‘In short’ or, ‘To sum up’. But he didn’t, and to the end of his days he will be saying ‘at the end of the day’, and thus being ineffably boring.

However life is full of surprises, and one day I saw Dick coming out of a house where lived a man who I knew to be infinitely more boring than Dick was. This amazingly boring individual’s idea of a gripping narrative, was to tell me blow by blow, in an exhausting bleating Lancashire accent, how precisely he redecorated his teenage son’s bedroom, agonising and consulting over flock or silk wallpaper patterns, not forgetting prior patient deliberation over emulsion, gloss and satinwood paint colours, and oh, no, shoot me down if I’m wrong, but not neglecting the dear old sand paper (cheaper at Tesco than Asda) and the white spirit(cheaper at Asda than Tesco), all as part of the fulsome and encyclopaedic and doorstopping package.

But guess what Dick said to me with such a woeful look?

“I used to think I was the most boring man in the world, till I talked to that man in there! Listening to him, I really lost the will to live.

Voila. A bore who knew that he was a bore… and thus he had temporarily freed himself from solipsism.

Finally the tale of a woman who was turned into an apparent bore, through no fault of her own, meaning it was structural circumstances and the sociology of the modern western nuclear family that had made her the way she was. She was a friend of a friend, and let’s call her Jane. It was around 1980 that her husband Will deserted her, and left her a jobless single mother aged 30, with a new baby. A conscientious parent living on meagre benefits, and with no extended family or any other support close to hand, for the next 5 years i.e. up until 1985, when she was 35, she stayed in every night alone in her Leeds bedsit and looked after her son George.

Came one night in June 1985 where remarkably she had a bit of spare cash and had found a reliable babysitter for her 5 year-old boy. Even better, she had been invited out for a drink with a bunch of women friends and one or two of their partners. She knew one of the women, called Fay, through George’s school, for Fay too was a single mum, though in her case with her very supportive mother just round the corner.

Jane duly turned up at the lively pub, and was bought a drink and listened attentively but a little anxiously to the hectic conversational hub. It was bloody great if a little bit challenging,  being out with people her own age for the first time in five bloody years, was it not? What were those two awful totemic words she always found such a fretful pain in the backside, if you were living on benefits and spent a lot of your life with a 5 year-old watching only repeats of Tom and Jerry that she had first watched as a child herself in 1958? Ah yes, Social fucking Skills. Three words in fact.

Suddenly a pause came in the table’s conversation, and someone said they really liked Jane’s earrings, and they all looked to pretty and likeable Jane to see what she had to say for herself.

Jane opened her mouth…

And it stayed like that… ever so rigid and ever so wide open. It stayed precisely thus as she waited what seemed geological aeons for her brain and her vocal chords to say something.

But absolutely nothing came. She was just like a fish, with a gaping completely soundless maw.

And yet she was not a bore. And it was not a solipsism in her case. She had, quite simply, forgotten how to talk.

To anyone other than 5 year-old George that is…

HIT IT WITH BLACK CARDOMOMS

HIT IT WITH BLACK CARDOMOMS

(Author’s note. As you can see WILD DAYS IN GREECE is not really an open blog for two-way public correspondence. But sincerely, if ANYONE wishes to WRITE TO ME about ANYTHING, please do and I promise to answer you. Write to me at  john@writinginkythnos.com)

When my daughter Ione came to Kythnos at the start of December, I was impatiently  looking forward to cooking for her. She likes my food very much, and although I cook conscientiously for myself alone, it is always more enjoyable to prepare food for others. She is a vegetarian and I believe that I am a piscatarian (which sounds like one who is both a singing drunkard, and has gleeful Fountains of Rome enuresis, so I never use the word). It means that I eat fish and vegetarian food, but never eat meat. This is deeply inconsistent, and yes, definitely  immoral on my part. I don’t eat meat because I hate the idea of animals suffering, but then again I know the poor fish don’t enjoy having a bloody great hook lodged in their throats. Would you enjoy it, do you think, all things considered? And then being bashed to death with up to four charitable blows, once unhooked, how nice of us to do this selfless act of mercy  to them. I suppose the main  difference is that the fish aren’t bundled brutally into lorries, driven often vast distances aching with thirst, and then bolt-stunned before having their throats slit and being disembowelled. It is of course kinder than what the authorities did to Guy Fawkes and his co-plotters, but it is still not kind. I have not eaten meat since 1982, and any time I pass a butcher these days it always looks to me precisely what it is, a grotesque charnel house, a gallery of animal flesh caked in its ambient blood. I’m sorry by the way, if you are eating your breakfast of bacon and sausage and kidneys while reading this…

Cooking for Ione is always a pleasure, but it can be moderately taxing. Considering she is a vegetarian, there are quite a few front rank as opposed to lowly vegetables she does not like. My favourite vegetables are the kingly aubergine and the queenly courgette, but she doesn’t like either of those. Neither will she eat coriander leaves as in fresh Indian chutneys or pasta coriandolo, which is that ingenious substitution of fresh coriander for basil when making your pesto. Try coriander pesto and I can assure you, you will be a different person by the time you have finished your plate. In my daughter’s case she complains that what the Americans and Mexicans call ‘cilantro’ tastes like soap. Ione also does not care for that exquisite Korean garnish of toasted sesame seeds, and that I find hard to comprehend. It is a bit like not liking the sight of a bus ticket or being put off by the letters q or z in the alphabet. However we both love mushrooms and cauliflower and broccoli, and there are wonderful pasta sauces can be made out of all those. The Sicilian cauliflower sauce added to pasta is  flavoured with olives, nuts, sultanas and saffron, and  is both Arab-derived and of gourmet stature. My daughter would usually agree wholeheartedly, but alas I went and roundly bollocksed up its gourmet status last year, by failing to examine the cauliflower adequately.

Ione is one of those who fastidiously examines her cutlery and wine glass to see if they are dirty, and especially if they come to her via me. Personally, like Homer Simpson, I see only  the wine and rarely the glass, and a fork would have to be considerably tarnished, caked, oxidised and possibly blue, before I would ask for a replacement. Not so Ione, who successfully discovered the mesmerising corpse of an earwig on her plate of Sicilian cauliflower sauce last April, and took a royal fit. She simply could not see the funny side, nor see why I found it at all amusing. If it had been me I’d have removed the earwig, which was after all dead and incapable of inflicting any harm, checked for others, and kept on eating. In fact this is exactly what I did do. But sadly Ione could not touch it, and became mildly traumatised at the fact she had almost swallowed an insect. Perhaps that was simply  because she is a pure and principled vegetarian, not a compromised piscatarian like her Dad, and she would not wish to eat even a humble earwig much less a pork chop or disgusting osso buco or Scottish white and red puddings, and all the rest of it…

I learnt to cook relatively late in life, at the age of 27. Before that I scorned recipe books, and if I tried to invent a meal I cooked impressionistically, then wondered why my mongrel Bill gingerly took a single bite and then stunned and incredulous at its taste, dropped it like a chromatic turd on the carpet. Having broken up with Nina the nurse, I also suffered from single guy status, and was sharing with two other young men, neither of whom could cook. I ate meat in 1977 and our staple bachelor dinners were either spag bol or beef curry, and nothing else. They had identical components save substitute plain boiled rice for spaghetti, and ‘curry powder’ for ‘mixed herbs’. Tinned tomatoes made the bulk of the sauce, but it wouldn’t have occurred to any of us to mash the bloody things, and stop them behaving like unpleasant miniature balloons slithering away against our repulsed tongues…nor to add tomato puree to thicken the sauce and stop it being so wretchedly aqueous. The beef was not proper beef but cheap mince meat, which was regarded as cooked once it had turned fifty shades of grey. The association of louche but low-grade and badly composed culinary pornography is obviously very apt here. Pardon me while I go and gag at the unProustian recollection, where instead of exquisite madeleines, it was smelly and rank mixed herbs, and horrible fenugreeky curry powder, all too biliously vivid even if it is nearly forty years ago…

One day I had had enough of miasmic spag bol, and  even more of dung-flavoured beef curry. In the shared kitchen were a few cookbooks left by previous tenants, and one of these was to be my primer and my late 1970s godsend. It was called 500 Vegetarian Recipes by Marguerite Patten and had cost 30p when purchased originally in 1975. The recipes were remarkably easy to follow, in lucid numbered stages, nearly all of them being more than tasty, and of course as they were vegetarian, cheap. The first meal I attempted I was a bag of nerves, and had no hope whatever, as I vaguely imagined all cookery books were obscure and unplumbable confidence tricks. It was a kind of fusion style Indonesian sauce for pasta, and it contained peanut butter, lemon juice and chopped tomatoes.  Brainy old Patten had the inspired notion of decorating it with fried cashews, fried green peppers and lemon rind. At any rate it tasted heavenly after ballocky spagbollicks, and I tried it out on Ted and Ben, and they both gave it thumbs up and asked for more. But just in case your credulity is jibbing at the very costly cashews in the culinary equation, I need to point out a) Ted ran a grocery wholesale depot, and kept some of its splendid contents on his strictly  private shelf in the kitchen, and b) I am on occasion and regrettably a thief.

To accelerate the narrative and foreclose the chronological axis, over a year or so I worked my way through all 500 recipes. Only one was revolting, and I was very tempted to write to Ms Patten and spell out a home truth, whilst congratulating her on the other excellent 499. It was parsnip and banana curry and my bile rises as I think of it. You fried an onion, put in the fruit,  water and the parboiled parsnip, and then tipped in a few spices, princiapally garam masala, ginger and turmeric. Frankly you could have tossed in liquid gold, phlogiston, ambrosia and the Elixir of Life, and it would still have tasted like, what’s that subtle and challenging epistemological categorical term, as liked even by the most sesquipedalian of philosophers for its considered, incisive and pithy semantic hubris? Ah yes, I remember now. The word is shite

To resume. Parsnip, a bit like turnip …

Ah. I’m sorry. But I need to stop here for a weighty parenthesis, and brackets will not work. I wish to say, bloody hell, bloody hell, I am 64, and I have never ever juxtaposed those two words and thus never twigged that both of them end in ‘nip’! A ‘pars’-nip and a ‘tur’-nip. But what the hell are a ‘pars’ and a ‘tur’ (and I hope against hope that ‘tur’ is not an abbreviation of ‘turd’)? Answer, google it tomorrow, and then you’ll be able to sleep at night. Or no, no, no, maybe the day after tomorrow. And please, everyone carefully note, that all sensible cultures have a single word for ‘the day after tomorrow’ and only an uptight anally-retentive and hopeless milieu such as Mother England, does not. A single word means of course it’s a metaphor for ‘possibly never’, and is thus a handy procrastinatory aid for e.g. philosophical and unphilosophical idlers. Why, even in ratatat officious German they have ubermorgen, and in Greek it’s methavrio and in Albanian pasneser.

To re-resume. The parsnip, a bit like the turnip, has such a strong taste, that it needs very drastic culinary treatment to bring out its subtle virtues. And frankly, in the case of the parsnip, I doubt it is even worth the considerable effort. The only parsnip dish I really like is when it’s oven-roasted in honey, as my late wife Annie used to do it, to great effect. I don’t think Indians ever eat parsnips, but they do manage astonishing things with shalgam/turnips on a brilliant kind of homoepathic or contrary  principle. What is that, you ask? OK, raw turnips taste and smell as uncompromisingly vicious as buffalo shit/ farts, am I not correct? So, if you attempt to ameliorate the flavour by gentle and delicate spices, you might as well try and get the left half of your esteemed backside to transcribe Schubert’s Lieder for euphonium, and/or write the Mabignogion in Old Welsh. However. Suppose instead you attack the turnip with very strong spices, as in cough medicine tasting black cardamoms (not the sweet little elaichi green ones)and then maybe fearlessly chuck in some laung/cloves, to make damn sure. Prior to that, you have sliced the shalgam very thin, and then smeared with thinned tomato puree and the dynamite cardamoms and cough drop cloves as above. You bake slowly in the oven, and lo when you taste the turnip, all that bitter buffalo dung taste has gone, and instead the shalgam is delicate and redolent with pungent and delicious taste.

But, and I hope you do not mind this considered and tantalising example of august  pre-prandial anticlimax, parsnip and banana curry as I have indicated both looks and tastes like merde/skato/copros…and I think Ms Patten included it as a welcome harmless joke

TO BE CONTINUED

SAMUEL SCHEIDT

SAMUEL SCHEIDT

In the winter of 2013, I made friends with many of the Kythnos high school teachers. Mostly in their late twenties and early thirties, they were around half my age, but in no way did they ever patronise me or refer to me in the third person saying, does he take sugar, do you think?, and is that some offensive ruminant cud drooling from his whiskery old mouth? First of all, on  the Lavrio boat, I met five-foot two-inches tall Anna aged 31, who subsequently became my excellent Greek tutor. I told her she looked about six years old to me, and she hooted hilariously. During our lessons she kept telling me teleia, John, excellent, you are almost a proper Greek! One basks in that kind of thing, does one not, even though one knows it to be effervescent and kindly hyperbole. We did the teaching in her house, and I always took her some posh chocolate biscuits or sweets, and told her it was so she wouldn’t shout at me or rattle my ear for any errors. She guffawed at that and she also laughed when I invited her to arrange a dinner party on my behalf and invite as many of her colleagues as possible. She blinked and said she could bring along twenty if I insisted. Sure I said, bring them all on, bring the bloody lot, Anna. In the end she managed to bring ten, and we had a hell of a time eating my Indian vegetarian food of bindi with ajwain, kela kari, chakunda chawal and khajur raita. Later we cleared the floor and danced Greek, Irish, and, what’s more, and objectively very impressively, jigged along to John McLaughlin’s Indo-jazz fusion band Shakti. The only hitch was most of them smoked, and did so on my front balcony, leaving the sliding door open for handy converse with their non-smoking mates inside. After they had gone, and even though it was November, I realised I now hosted  the entire mosquito population of the port, and I literally did not sleep a wink that night.  At the next dinner party I exercised some sense, and made them go and smoke outside on my landing…

One thing many of them had in common was they were interested in astrology. At least half of them asked me what my star sign was, and I would play the idiot and say I’d forgotten, but it was either Kawasaki or Yamaha. I studied Sanskrit at university, and of course astrology is ultra-important in pious Hindu culture, especially when it comes to marriages and other celebrations. The Sanskrit word mangala or ‘auspicious’ features largely, together with the word for ‘inauspicious’. My gut instinct is to be sceptical of anything allied to the paranormal or the occult, and for that matter, to have what I regard as a healthy spiritual anxiety about such things. Of course Hindu astrology is a sober and dignified and hallowed tradition, but if 14 year-old Western schoolkids, especially girls, were encouraged to have the same self-protective spiritual anxiety, they wouldn’t end up having horrible nervous breakdowns after amateur Ouija board sessions. Nor would they be so hungrily buying books on Do It Yourself Witchcraft (white or black, kid, take your pick) which in the biggest Carlisle bookshop was always placed under Religion, sometimes close to the Bible,  after which observing, I would say, Oh, God help us…

At any rate, I have three significant examples of what I would regard as unusual, possibly paranormal coincidences from my own life. One of them is farcical, one amusing, and one is very serious, so we will start with that one first.  It concerns two very important women in my life. The two longest relationships I have ever had, are with my late wife Annie for 31 years from 1978-2009, and the 3 years with my teenage girlfriend Edith Sanchez from 1967-1970.  Annie died at the age of 54 on the  4th December 2009, from secondary breast cancer and Edith Sanchez died on the 15th November 2013, from bladder cancer, aged 61. Annie was buried on the 10th of December 2009 and Edith was cremated on…the 10th of December 2013 (meaning an anomalous 25 days after she died, connected to some mourners coming from abroad). So the two most important women in my life, both had funerals on the 10th of December. That is a 1/365  or 3/1000 chance or more likely a 1/313 chance, as I doubt whether anyone ever has a church or a secular funeral on a Sunday. I can’t say it gives me the serious creeps, but it does mean on the 10th of December every year I have a considerable quantity of mourning…

On  a similar tack, but less poignant altogether. Somewhere around 2000, 15 years ago (would you credit the hideous passage of time?) I was driving into Carlisle from my farmhouse near Brampton, North Cumbria. It is a distance of 12 miles. There was an open fast stretch round about the Crosby-on-Eden area, where there was a petrol garage which I never ever used. Instead there was a far bigger and more accessible garage a few miles further on, and that was my regular petrol stop. About 50 yards short of the first garage, there was a sudden explosive ping sound inside the car, and when I moved my foot fearfully down below, I realised the clutch cable had snapped. If not massively technically minded, you maybe don’t realise that a car will not drive in such frustrated circumstances. Luckily the garage I never used was up ahead, and there was no traffic coming the other way,  so I could glide across the 50 yards into its forecourt. There I could ask the friendly mechanic if I could use his phone to ring the AA. Right enough, he handed me his mobile which I simply did not know how to operate. But guessing I was somewhere close to 50, and it was perhaps high time I became a proper man, instead of doing it for me, he smiled and  said amiably, ‘There’s a first time for everything’ and he intoned the necessary instructions.

Inside about half an hour, the bustling AA bloke turned up, botched up a temporary cable, and advised me to get it done properly. Fair enough. Now fast forward about a year to summer 2001. Again, I was driving the same car the  same 12 miles of road from my house into fabled metropolitan Carlisle. I was on the same fast stretch but doing my usual vertiginous 35 miles an hour, and was whistling. Then, fuck me gently, there was that identical bastard of a ping! inside the car once more, and as I waggled my foot below, I realised that the See You Next Tuesday of a clutch cable had gone and snapped again! Now, and this is the really weird part, and be prepared to hold your loved one’s hand as a creepy sensation will attack you round the sensitive epithelial parts, especially those down below in the nether areas, and also close to the upper armpits. The clutch cable I swear to you, had snapped at exactly 50 yards, or as near as dammit, to the same bloody petrol garage I had never used! Thank God, as previously, no traffic was coming the other way, and I glided into the forecourt and there again was the same mechanic in the same greasy boiler suit and playing with his by now new and fancier mobile phone.

I leapt out and shouted, ‘It’s me, I’m back again!’ and of course he stared at me considerably bemused. He saw thousands of customers on his forecourt over any 12 month period, whereas I only saw him once every 12 months, starting last year, and then only when my brainless clutch cable had snapped. I might look distinctive with all the wispy hair and shaggy beard, but for his purposes I didn’t look that distinctive. He had no idea what I was talking about. I told him that my clutch cable had snapped a second time, and it had snapped exactly where it had snapped the first time, one year earlier. He nodded boredly and handed me his truly supersonic 2001 mobile, and again he had to give me an induction with the fucking thing. I rang for the AA, and guess what, it was the same brisk and curly haired AA geezer came flying up after about an hour. Once more I jested, it’s me again, but like the amnesic and indifferent mechanic, he had no memory at all of our previous rendezvous. He did though point out that it was now recognised as a specific design fault in my particular Renault, the pinging clutch cable, and I needed to get my garage to fix it on in a certain way, possibly, I conjectured, with UHU glue so the useless bastard never ever pinged again.

As for the odds of such a coincidence, I was at first tempted to do the sum with a calculator. And I always assumed I was a mental arithmetic whizzkid, but dividing 12 miles by 50 yards, proved to be harder than I thought. 12 x 1760 yards in a mile, divided by 50…ah, easy after all, if I divide by 100 and double it. Hence 12 x 1760 = 10 x 1760 + 2 x 1760 = 17,600 add 3520 = 21,120. Now divide by 100 = 211 and multiply x 2 to get the 50 yards odds  = 422.

Yes, it was a risible piece of piss after all, and I can throw the stupid calculator away. Now you are able to see that the odds of the clutch cable snapping in the identical location, the same 50 yards from the same garage that I never, ever visited, was 1/422…

And I hope you are impressed…

Finally, the best of the lot and the most comical, and alas the least credible. It concerns my first ever date with my soon to be wife Annie. It was late December 1978, when she was 23 and a half and I was 28 and a sixth. A few days before, we had met surreptitiously on an enormous dance floor, clandestinely because she was going out with someone else who she was tiring of, and he happened to be there at the same entertainment  venue. Luckily the place was crowded beyond belief, and we were at the far end, away from the entrance, and well away from the visual field of her unfortunate and unsatisfactory bloke. She and I already knew each other in the roles of lecturer and student, with her as the student and me as the WEA lecturer. The course was called Radical Alternatives (Ivan Illich, Erich Fromm, John Holt, RD Laing, David Cooper etc) and it is true to say that apropos the guy she was tiring of, I was undoubtedly a Radical Alternative. We fixed a secret date at my house, and she duly turned up there looking unbelievably handsomely blond , quite impossibly attractive, so that, guess what, as with the reckless hideaway manoeuvre on the dance floor, I couldn’t keep my hands off her. Nor indeed could she off me…

We went with no scant alacrity to bed, as one customarily does on these occasions. One of the books we had studied in the course I taught was called Tools for Conviviality by Ivan Illich. Annie and I in my bed discovered that we had some most apposite and sweet little ( no, I mean very big) tools for conviviality. The important thing to note is that, as ever, I had BBC Radio 3, the classical music channel, playing in my bedroom. The mad scene that follows was ultimately fictionalised in the first few pages of my 2006 novel  A Gentleman’s Relish, but I doubt whether anyone who read and possibly laughed at that bedroom scene, would ever guess that the prototype scene was not that of two London Bohemians called George and Franny in the 1950s, but actually that involving the author and his soon to be wife in the late 1970s.

Some wonderful early organ music was playing so smokily and sultrily and sweetly on good old Radio 3, as we ascended the ecstatic scales of amatory passion. We were engaged in passionate amorous dalliance with our non-exploitative tools for conviviality, and how can I put it, it was better than Maths or even bloody old Woodwork homework, by a long way. As we rose to such dizzying climactic heights, so too did the gorgeous resonant organ music, and unlikely as it sounds, those wonderful Life beyond Death and Death beyond Life spiritual intimations, that you get from the likes of Bach or Buxtehude and their organ musics… worked almost as an added aphrodisiac.

At length we reached the climax of our aspirations and lay back panting, with faces as red as plum tomatoes or alternatively like smacked arses. Exactly simultaneously, the organ music had likewise come to its own serene and ineffable conclusion. Perhaps a half second followed, and then the Radio 3 announcer who I believe in 1978 was the decorous and always sober Victor Hallam, said very audibly to our extremely astonished ears:

“Well, that was shite…”

Can you imagine? The word ‘shite’ of all words on Radio 3 in 1978, or even for that matter in 1988, or 2001, or 2015? Perhaps to be sure it was permissible in a modern confrontational play on its regular Sunday night drama slot, but this was a classical organ recital of a Saturday teatime?

“No it wasn’t, “I snorted back at Victor Hallam. “As a matter of fact it was anything but.”

Victor answered me obliquely and as with many oblique answers, he cleared things up for both me and my wonderful new girlfriend immediately.

“Samuel Scheidt, who was born in 1587 and died in 1654, was at one stage a pupil of Sweelinck. Later he became Kapellmeister to the Margrave of Brandenburg…”

I lay there in stupefied wonder for perhaps twenty seconds. Then I earnestly asked Annie, what were the arithmetical chances, the impossible odds,  of us coming to our first ever joyous sexual climax, and immediately we did a Radio 3 announcer apparently uniformed us that the experience we had just had was ‘shite’. Of course, I hastily qualified, he didn’t actually say that, but fleetingly we had thought he did, and we had thought he had said it with exact and paranormal and unworldly acuity. I mean he obviously couldn’t see us there naked in bed in bloody old West Cumbria, because he was there in his broadcaster’s duds and spats in a BBC studio in London, and as sure as Samuel Scheidt, he hadn’t got such a thing as second sight. What were the odds, I interrogated her there in our delightful little bed of love, what were the odds of such a coincidence?

Annie had a great idea, just as she always had lots of great ideas, which partly explains why she was such a genius as a consultant trainer, and as an Organisational Transactional Analyst.

“Let’s do it again, and see if it happens again,” she said, deftly twiddling something that definitely enjoyed being deftly twiddled. “Get my drift?”

Enough said. What a woman. To quote her favourite writer, Flann O’Brien, assuredly her like will not be seen again…

I said, “You mean when we reach the orgasmic pinnacle again, Victor will start talking about ‘fucks’ as in the Austrian composer, Johann Josef Fux? Seventeenth and early eighteenth century, as far as I remember. Victor will clear his majestic old Radio 3 throat, and say to us, ah, all too typical fucks…you might say absolutely quintessential fucks...”

MONTY’S CHAKRAS

MONTY’S CHAKRAS

People think that because I write about Greek cats so much, I am a cat man, and as I said earlier one of my Kythnos nicknames is John The Catman, as opposed to John The Batman. Every day I buy two euros worth of sliced ham and my cat friends here in the port sit waiting for me at various selected points in the village to disburse my English charity. Most of these cats survey me with tense approval, and as a rule restrained  anticipation. Others who are anything but polite, anticipate so much, that the buggers leap up scratching at the bag and tear at my agitated hands. I chuck the ham democratically  to on average half a dozen charitable cases, but it is always a problem when it lands on a cat’s head or more often its back. Few of them, to adopt an amusing Irish example of litotes (or do I mean  zeugma?), are ‘killt with brains’,  and cannot see the ham nor work out where the hell it has gone. I have to gingerly knock it off them,  and of course the idiots think I am chastising them, and race for the hills. Isn’t life quite pointlessly problematic at times? I mean it is bad enough if uncomprehending human beings mistake your kind and patient intentions, but in the case of a hungry but far too wary Cycladean cat?

Anyway the great revelation is,  I am a dog man more than a cat man. I love cats right enough, though I never actually possessed one till I was 40. But I love dogs even more, and have had one since I was 8 years old. My first dog was called Roy, and his dates were 1959-1972, meaning he lived to a respectable 13 years. He was of unusual provenance, for he was born to a family of West Cumbrian gypsies who had settled in the extremely remote quarters of the vast forest above the pit village where I was born and raised. There was an old colliery reservoir up that way and a shambling and insanitary cottage above it where cross-bred Roy was born, and the cottage was called Wattery, the Cumbrian for ‘watery’, an onomatopoeia if ever there was (NB. the supremely alert among you will note at least three Greek-derived words so far, ‘litotes’, ‘zeugma’ and ‘onomatopoeia’. Well done for being so phenomenally alert…and note from your lofty standpoint, how many myopic yet complacent sluggards there are in this world who notice virtually nothing about anything).

Roy was an affectionate brown and white mongrel, with a pink and black nose, and the most beautiful animal in existence as far as I was concerned. I could write ten novels about him without any effort, but instead will restrict myself to a single illustrative anecdote. He suffered from jealousy God bless him, and I don’t mean of the amatory kind. He did like women and all they entailed right enough, and would fuck off up the village if a bitch was in season and do his very best to get his enthusiastic end away. My Dad would go looking for him and batter him all the way home, for making us frightened that he had been run over by a car. But no, his jealousy was simply of our affections. Thus if a bunch of old family friends came to visit, and he saw me, my Mam and Dad and brothers,  all animated and delighted, as we caught up after six months or even a year…it caused him some uneasy emotional pain. We had forgotten all about him, in favour of these fly by night chattering, chuckling bastards, is what was going through his perplexed brain. That said, he was so gentle there was no danger of him attacking them, or squatting and shitting on their feet by way of ‘expressing his feelings’ to quote an enduring 1970 Californian therapeutic expression. Instead, and this is indicative of the nuanced emotional subtlety of many an animal, or at least of my first ever pet Roy, he would disappear into the kitchen on a mysterious errand. Invariably it was precisely the same errand, each time his pink and black nose was seriously put out of joint. Roy would return with something very large in his mouth, that was cracking his jaws in effect. In his mouth he held the very biggest potato he could find from the vegetable basket. He would stop centre stage, and hey, look at me ! fling the huge potato up into the air. Bravo! Then, to frantic imagined applause he would pick the tatie up again, and fling it up very dexterously again! Bravo, maestro, Signor Roy! Of course all hectic conversation stopped, and we all clapped him roundly and chuckled our heads off. Then Roy who had finally won our elusive attention was happy once again…

My next dog was the black and tan mongrel Bill, 1976-1993, meaning he lived to be a glorious 16 and a half before dying of a succession of very painful to behold seizures. Three years into his legendary biography his boss met Annie who would become his  23 year-old wife. Daughter Ione didn’t come along till 1989, meaning Annie and I were married a full ten years before we had our only child. Bill was our other only child for those first ten years, and all of those who knew him then would have acknowledged as much, but without any derision or ironical distance. He was not an anthropomorphic child, he was our delinquent and charismatic black and tan son. Again I could write the length of the Waverley Novels about Bill, but will give only one snapshot of his remarkable sense of offering a perfectly timed theatrical performance. Annie and I were living in a rather dull little town in North Yorkshire and had been married only a few months. One day we took a trip to Sheffield, principally because the excellent sax woman Barbara Thompson and Her Paraphernalia were performing there that Saturday night.  Bill slept in the car while he were tapping our feet to this beautiful woman’s sumptuous jazz, but before that the three of us had had a pleasant amble around the city. It was my first time there, and also Annie’s first time, and to be sure it was Bill’s debut visit also. He like his owners was only a humble and naive West Cumbrian, but he decided nonetheless to make his entrance to Sheffield in jaunty metropolitan style.

We were walking through a central shopping arcade and a homely looking woman of late middle age was walking towards us with a small child, maybe her grandson in tow. She had a large woven shopping basket that was open at the top, and as we walked past each other, I could see the most beautiful cream cake I had ever seen in my life. It had fresh strawberries basking in some copious and delectable cream, plus a calligraphic scattering of chocolate vermicelli. It must have cost her a regal fortune, and I seriously  envied the cherubic little grandson who would soon be sinking his infant gnashers into all that cream and all those luscious straws! Or that at least was my initial sunny Sheffield fantasy…

This is where gifted thespian Bill comes into the picture in unheroic, indeed utterly shameful terms. I bet you think that I am going to say he stuck his head into her basket and despoiled that Saturday afternoon cream cake treat in three Gargantuan gulps. No, I’m not, so try again. He despoiled it right enough, but not by devouring it. What he did needs careful prose and patient delineation. I was holding him on a loose leash, and as we passed the woman and the child, he was perhaps twelve inches from the open basket and the preposterously gorgeous  cake. As if he had rehearsed the same athletic circus feat a dozen times, without so much as a polite cough or a cocking or twitch of his ear.. he raised his left leg and pissed a hideous ochre-coloured torrent all over the unfortunate cake…

You should have seen the late middle-aged Sheffield woman’s horror. She aged at least a decade as I studied her expression. You should have seen the angelic grandson’s innocent astonishment. Bill dropped his leg after a quarter of a second, and kept on blithely walking so that his halt-piss-proceed sequence was something like a technically perfect bit of soldierly drill. The only thing missing was me as hairy, beardy army sergeant encouraging the drill with hey-hup, hup-hey! Both Annie and I saw it all happen in slow motion, and of course as two responsible, non anti-social grown adults, we should have stopped, apologised profusely, possibly wept and torn our and Bill’s hair in shame , and paid for a replacement cream cake.

But did we fuck. Try it yourself, and see what you would have done, faced with the tarnished miasma of the splendid cake, and the ocean of horrible yellow piss that was swamping it. Exaggerating Bill’s example, we just kept on walking ever faster and faster, and I realised that the Criminal Cumbrian Cake Despoiler was wondering why the hell we were accelerating though such an exciting place as this shopping mall which he for cone would have preferred to have sauntered through sniffing luxuriously at all the delirious odours the while.

Fast forward fifteen years, and my first ever canine bitch enters the picture in early 1994. She was called Bonny or maybe Bonnie, and I who owned her regularly interchanged the spelling while pointlessly puzzling as to the orthodox version. In fairness to Bonny/Bonnie I only call myself John, not Jhon nor Jon nor Jonne nor Jhonne. Not that Bonny gave a damn about how her name was rendered on the page. What Bonny loved and coveted  above everything else, she shared in common with TV celebrity Homer Simpson. I was well into my forties before I assimilated the profound truth, that a dog’s keenest atavistic instinct is to satisfy its hunger. All dog training is based on that principle, meaning rewarding the animal with a tasty snack every time it does something to order. Bonny was the greediest dog I have ever met, and also at times the most repulsively disgusting. We fed her two large meals a day, but I have seen her digest with every sign of enjoyment the truly unspeakable out in a field, just after she had knocked back enough Pedigree Chum to feed an army (by the way she was no lady pedigree but was an ungainly brown and white cross between a greyhound and possibly a donkey. The greyhound legacy explained her sudden inexplicable violence because if you accidentally woke her when she was snoozing on our best couch, she would snarl bloodcurdlingly, while never actually biting you). I know you are dying to know precisely what she once ate, and no it was not rotten carrion, though yes she did enjoy that very often with a most fastidious gourmet relish. It was…no I’m not going to tell you, but suffice to say someone would have to give you and me at least £1 million, to eat even a microscopic speck of it.

Three years after Bonnie arrived, so did Monty. Monty was in many ways a duplicate of Bill, a beautiful black and tan mongrel we acquired from the animal rescue place. He was one of five pups saved from drowning when someone saw a suspicious-looking bag floating on a river with harrowing squealing noises being emitted. Ione aged 8 and I went together to the rescue place, and I advised her to pick the dopiest, most vulnerable-looking looking  of the pups, the one that no one else would want. She thought that was a very good idea, picked up squinting, staring Monty, held him up to her face and gave him a big warm kiss. And that was how it all began…

Monty was a virtuoso of high grade farce. Bonny was three and half when Monty became her boon companion, or more often the pest who she would snarl at and worry, if he pushed his lush affections too far. If anyone did not understand the taxing concepts of personal boundaries and personal space, that individual was Monty. By the time he was one year old, in 1998, he was doing his best to impregnate Bonny, but for full effect he would have needed a handy stool, and in any case luckily she had been long ago been spayed. She would stand there four times his size, with her rear end presented to him rather like a newspaper shielding not her face, but her private parts… and let him plug away like a demented suction pump. She looked as bored as Mae West  wondering with supreme indifference what the hell Loppylugs Casanova was getting so excited about, as he massaged her hindquarters so incredibly ineptly, and panted and puffed like an exophthalmic maniac.

His second best short comedy feature, was when my mother in law was visiting us in our North Cumbrian farmhouse, in late 1999 when Ione was 10. She and Annie’s Dad came through every Thursday when my daughter was young, and we gave them a sumptuous tea, and they spent hours playing devoutly and joyously with their first and only grandchild. To give you an indication of how much they doted on her, Annie’s Mum once said emotionally she could without any problem eat Ione’s excrement when, aged three months and without meaning anything personal, she shot some ballistically over her Nana’s upper chest. Likewise Annie’s Dad once at infant Ione’s request, read the same very long Rupert Bear story about a decorated Chinese kite being mistaken for a genuine monster…no less than twenty three times in succession. I counted and it was twenty three, I promise you.

My father in law was a dog man too, and he really liked Bonny, but for some reason was indifferent though never harsh to Monty. Monty would regularly take flying leaps of adoration at his maternal grandpa, then put his tongue deep inside the ex-policeman’s ear, and lick him furiously unto madness, but the 70 year-old recipient of this doting homage would firmly put him back on the ground and urge him to vamoose.  One day however, Monty surpassed himself on every score. Annie’s Mum happened to wear false teeth , and had the habit, as today, of putting them now and again into her handbag if they were giving her discomfort. The only place she ever put them aside from her mouth was in her bag, so it was a safe enough strategy all considered. That  afternoon she sought and rummaged high and low in her leather handbag, but of mislaid full set upper and lower dentures there were none.

“Christ,” she said, for without any disrespect she often blasphemed. “Where the bloody hell are my bloody dentures?”

She was not at her unqualifiedly prettiest minus her dentures, so the anxiety evident on her face was intelligible enough. Ione and I and her head-shaking, tutting husband, helped her in the search and watched as she emptied everything out on the floor. But no, there were her purse, sweets, fags, matches, the lot, but nothing remotely akin to a pair of false teeth. Bonny sat staring hopefully at the bag of sweets as she was partial to lemonade rock, even if the sharp edges bloodily abraded her tongue. Not that she ever noticed that piffling and inconsequential injury, and indeed had swallowed the delicious blood with everything else. Meanwhile, where the hell, we all wondered aloud, where was that for once reclusive and ungregarious gentleman called Monty?

I spotted his thumping tail round the back of the armchair, where was seated his and Ione’s dentureless Nana. I shouted of him, and sure enough he stood up, turned round, and approached his extended three generations family circle, and gave us all one of his most winning smiles. That said, it would be true to say he did not even remotely look himself, but looked altogether worryingly bizarre.

“Me bloody teeth!” howled my mother in law. “That damn Monty’s wearing me bloody teeth!”

True enough. Monty had her elusive dentures wonderfully sited firm between his small jaws, so that he could neither spit them out nor swallow them. As a result he looked rather like an old music hall buffoon with brilliantly goofy teeth and a strange pair of elongated very hairy and anomalously flopping ears…

Annie’s Mum swiftly got off her chair and yanked free the dentures. She was crippled with laughter of course, so much so she was just about to ram the wandering teeth safely back into her gob, before in unison we all, Ione included,  cried…No, no, go and wash the bloody things first!

Monty’s sex drive, as I have indicated, was colossal rather than substantial. We ought to have had him spayed, but somehow perhaps in irresponsible identificatory sympathy, I decided I did not want him = pseudo-me, to be sterilised. Bonny his permanent and sanguine soulmate, took it in her easy stride, and looked as if she was doing boring but necessary sums inside her head while he was endeavouring to drive her wild with his squint-eyed ardour. Ironically the preferred victims of his lusty if inconsequential shagging, were young attractive women in their twenties and thirties, meaning next door’s lodgers in the main. Nurses, teachers, social workers, they all loved Monty and found his romantic attachment highly amusing, and laughingly rebuffed his far from ingenious legwork. He aimed for their handsome legs, as being small that was the only practical target. He rarely if ever went for older women, and never at all for men, perhaps because they were not so rich and ripe in exhalations of heavenly pheromones.

In the spring of 2002, we had an unusual woman guest who fitted connoisseur Monty’s ideal erotic specifications. Magda was 34, good-looking, rather sleepy and serene in manner, and was a cousin of one of Annie’s friends. She had to attend a job interview about ten miles away, and was staying with us for two evenings, as the friend felt her cousin would prefer to stay with a nice friendly Cumbrian family than in an anonymous B and B. Monty liked serene Magda very much indeed, and he liked her right and left legs especially. Magda like everyone else just laughed at his comical obsessions, and in any case a glimmer of something appropriate to her amateur interests was evidently growing in her mind. Magda’s job was as a bank manager, but she had a part time passion in the direction of alternative medicine, and was indeed a practitioner. She lived in Manchester and in brief she had dabbled in reiki, acupuncture, massage, reflexology and aural healing. That partly explained her dreamy-eyed serenity, and it also explained why as those 48 hours of hospitality progressed, both Annie and I began to tire of our Mancunian guest just a little. The problem was that like Monty she was thoroughly obsessed, and simply would not let go of in her case, a metaphorical leg. At present her favourite therapy was aural healing, and she was clearly busting to practice it on anyone who would let her, more or less  regardless of their state of health. To start with at the breakfast table, she asked if she could try it on Ione, aged 12. Annie and I exchanged glances and pointed out that there was emphatically nothing at all wrong with our daughter, and even if there had been we could not have wanted her to accept alternative medicine for a cure. Far from being chastened by such brisk candour, Magda nodded sweetly and asked in that case could she have a go with Annie. She knew, she said, that Annie had had breast cancer…at which point Annie interrupted, yes, primary breast cancer as of four years ago, and thankfully nil treatment for the last three, beyond regular check-ups and mammograms. And, she added kindly, she was as fit as a fish, and as happy as a lark, and on that basis, she too would like to decline Magda’s very kind offer of aural healing. Again Magda smiled and nodded with a honeyed acquiescence. She coughed and finally turned very bravely to me as potential willing client, but even she the yoga-adept Magda, blanched and flinched when she beheld my bleak and adamantine stare.

There-is-nothing-wrong-with-me,” I  shot her at her like an unrepentant machine gun.”And even if there was…”

“Yes….yes…yes” and for once the vocal sweetness seemed to falter a little, at perhaps far too strong a saccharine backlash to her suddenly hiccupping throat.

A silence ensued which for me at any rate was not embarrassing, as it was all too unprecedented not to have Magda talking about auras, reiki, magnetic fields, energy centres and all the rest for a good three minutes. Her Mancunian brain meanwhile was going like clockwork, and of course it was inevitably Monty’s panting legwork upon her, that gave her the final possibly desperate resolution to heal someone or bust.

“Can I heal Monty?” she asked.

There were about three pregnant seconds where Annie and I were about to thunder NO! when instead in considered synchrony we asked:

“What’s medically wrong with Monty, in your professional opinion, Magda?”

Magda sighed and retrieved her pacific calm and her dulcet smile. She pointed at the crazed electric generator that was Monty, who was clinging to her slim right leg as if trying to hold on to the oh so volatile meaning of life itself.

“That,” she sighed. “That obsessive and insane sex drive of his! It’s his chakras that are all shot to pot!”

I said, “Ah.” And after hesitation added, “Ah,” again. Then, I explained as to an innocent small child, “But he hasn’t been spayed, is the simple explanation. And he’s only five years old, just a young and vigorous dog. It’s his natural and healthy libido, Magda.”

She smiled archly but prettily, as one who knows the hidden secrets of the universe and especially those with tantalising Hindu names.

“It’s his upset chakras, I’m telling you! They’re the equivalent of plexuses in western medicine, but they’re called by the Sanskrit word chakras in yogic texts.  They’re his vital seats of energy. Unfortunately Monty’s chakras are all to cock.” She tailed off and briefly blushed. “No, no, I mean his chakras are simply all gone to pot.”

Annie was studiously poker-faced “Really? So what would you suggest?”

“Aural healing! It’s so obvious in his case! I will stroke Monty’s chakral aura. I will remove the bad aura and I will blow it all away, every last bit. Then poor little Monty will stop being tormented by his terrible sex drive.”

Before we could stop her, and we didn’t try too hard, she had Monty seated firmly and hence chastely  on the ground, and she was facing him with slim and outspread fingers. She took those thin and elegant fingers, and like a stage magician with a mesmerising abracadabra type motion, she slowly drew out the invisible bad aura from Monty’s chakras. Monty stared at her in astonishment and remarkably he immediately stopped all attempts at clamorous copulation. Given that he had been shagging her non-stop for about three hours the night before, this was quite some sea change. Meanwhile Magda was weaving and wefting his mysterious auric substance, and as soon as she had it where she wanted it, she pouted her expressive if dreamy little lips and went, puff puff puff, and blew it all away!

Stroke stroke stroke, puff puff puff!

Stroke stroke stroke , puff puff puff!

This went on for I would say about ten long minutes, and throughout that protracted period, Monty remained calmly seated and obediently inert, and you might say completely and serenely hypnotised by Magda’s powerful and other-worldly magic.

After all those long minutes, where Monty seriously looked as if he was about to fall sexlessly asleep, Magda ceased her stroking and puffing, and turned to us victoriously.

“You see. I’ve sorted Monty’s chakras! It was his chakras, and I was right.”

Annie and I were about to generously concur, and even politely add, ah perhaps there is something in this esoteric and difficult subject after all. But suddenly there was the worrying sound of an approaching but invisible express train. It was as if a bolt from hell was about to enter and electrify the room. Had Mancunian Magda with her extraordinary aural manipulations, unleashed some terrifying unseen forces that were currently echoing round and round our innocent North Cumbrian living room? What the hell could it be, Annie and I asked ourselves anxiously, though not of course Magda, who for various mystico-occult reasons could not hear the encroaching infernal  hurricane.

We looked and behold! there was Don Juan Monty back again, feverishly pumping dulcet Magda at least twice as fast as his normal libidinal velocity. And believe me if he had shagged her any harder, he would surely take the pair of them aloft as in another mystical feat of sex-induced Dual Levitation that even a Tantric adept would have envied.

“It’s his chakras, “Magda snorted with ever such a tiny yet far from tranquil scream. “It’s his chakras, but of course he needs more than a single therapeutic session. I mean with someone like Monty  it might be a matter of years and years and years…”