Monthly Archives: September 2001

Generic vegetable oil != olive oil

Grrr. I’m angry with Greece. Silly really, and it’s my own stupid fault no doubt for going on a cheap bucket-shop holiday, but I am, so there it is.

Let’s be more specific. Last night we did the obligatory “Greek Night”. The dancing & entertainment were great. Nothing to begrudge there. It’s just… the food. This was supposed to be a demonstration to us foreigners of all that’s best about Greece. Of course it’s really just a cynical way of making a bit of extra cash, but I don’t mind cynical ways of making a bit of extra cash if they’re done properly. The Tatziki was great (although it’s a shame that, as everywhere, they serve it with heavy ageing white sliced bread, instead of the beautiful freshly-baked rolls we were given in Kefalonia). I don’t even begrudge the main course (chicken with rice and chips – very traditional – although I had pizza as a veggie option) or the dessert (slices of apple on cocktail sticks – I always thought that was traditional Somerset fayre, though no doubt they have the same in Corfu. Shame that none of the restaurants here knows how to make a fruit salad though – again in Kefalonia we got beautiful ones served up with greek yoghurt and honey). No, the problem was the “Greek Salad”. OK, the salad itself wasn’t bad – not too easy to go wrong (although it would have been more thoughtful if they’d bunged a few olives in with the lettuce, tomato, cucumber and feta). The problem is the FUCKING OIL. The national product of Greece is OLIVE OIL, RIGHT? So howcome they have such disgusting gloop in all the restaurants? Every restaurant has two bottles on the table; one is an indistinct sort of watery vinager, the other is a bottle of what I can only describe as chip oil. I first discovered this when, eschewing the margarine-dressed-as-butter that they hand out with the stale bread, I poured some oil to dip my slice in. It tasted like I had just licked the bottom of a deep-fat fryer which hadn’t been cleaned for months. And they expect us to pour this stuff on our salad? YEUUUCH! If this is really what the Greeks eat at home then I can only say they have no taste. Why don’t they make better use of all those olives growing all around them?

We are staying in the

We are staying in the Valentino apartments. On our first night here, the waiter at the restaurant we visited exclaimed knowingly “ah, Valentino. The pink one, yes?”. And it is, incredibly pink. The same pink as those squishy prawn sweets you get in pick’n’mixes. Makes me wonder whether the owner got a job lot bargain on candy pink paint, something like the farmer in Magnus Mills’s brilliant book All Quiet on the Orient Express.

Well, 20 pages in and

Well, 20 pages in and number9dream is every bit as good as expected. No, better. It is just so, so readable, but at the same time provides the kind of brainfood that makes the part of my mind that sleeps 99% of the time wake up and pay attention to everything. The book is a tapestry of real life (the story, the main event), fantasy (the narrator’s persistent daydreams) and memory (his trips back to childhood). And there are some great little quotes and stuff that keep grabbing my attention…

During those nine pouched-up months, what do babies imagine? Gills, swamps, battlefields? To people in wombs, what is imagined and what is real must be one and the same.

Death and Night and Blood. Yeuch.

Walking home tonight, I couldn’t get The Stanglers out of my head – Death and Night and Blood (Yukio) from Black & White, the bit where it goes

Hey little baby don’t you lean down low
Your brain’s exposed and it’s starting to show

I love that album – some of my all-time favourite songs: Tank, Nice’n’Sleazy, Sweden (“Let me tell you about Sweden, only country where the clouds are interesting”… sounds even better in Swedish [although… some of Hugh Cornwell’s Swedish sounds more like German to me “Ende lande die mollen intereserante”), Toiler on the Sea.

And it makes a nice change from the last couple of mornings, when for some unaccountable reason I have woken up with Eddy Grant singing Give me Hope Joanna in my head. Euuurgh. I hate that song. Oh, and then last night it was Peg by Steely Dan – I always used to hate Steely Dan, but Paul’s enthusiasm for them is catching, and when we played through a couple of their songs last night it was quite fun.

Reading, reading reading…. warning –

Reading, reading reading….

warning – vague, dislocated, post follows, includes bloated sentences and multiple nested thoughts

Just finished The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth. Good read. Not sure why I bought it in the first place… I was attracted in the bookshop by the smart silver Penguin Modern Classics cover, the name Roth (not sure why – the Allan Ginsberg poem mentioning Rexroth [who I recently discovered is Kenneth Rexroth and not, as I had thought, Rex Roth], vague awareness of the author Philip Roth as somebody I should be vaguely aware of), the book’s title (the name of Marshal Radetzky was very familiar to me – I thought it must be from some of the Czech literature I had read, Josef Skvorecky or Jaroslav Hasek or somesuch, but looking back I realise that it was probably from learning 19th century European History for A-Level, 1848 rebellions, Lombardy Venetia and all that)

sidenote: I was thinking the other day of certain placenames that are inextricably linked in my mind – it is not possible for me to think of one without the other. Most of these came from my 19th Century European history course – Lombardy-Venetia, Latvia-Lithania-Estonia, Moldavia-Wallachia, but for some reason the names of Elsecar and Wombwell also spring to mind as an inseperable duet.

So there you have it. I bought the book. And, having bought it, I thought I ought to read it. And I did. And it was good. Not the best, but… good. A nice combination of serious literary structure and underlying meaning with general readable storyishness. The structure of the book in particular, not an aspect that I usually pay any attention to was Bach-like in its exactness. The echoes between the rigid formalities of Austro-Hungarian life and the rigid formalities of the Trotta family made for rigid but rewarding form. The overwhelming feeling of darkness and impending decay was good too. And the little section seen through the eyes of the ageing Kaiser was delightful – the epitome and figurehead of this whole tightly structured empire, enoying his day with playful childlike thoughts, brilliant.

Next on the line is number9dream by David Mitchell. I read Ghostwritten last year, and it was my most memorable book of the year (at least, as far as I remember). A couple of nights back, they announced the booker nominees on Radio 4. I listened thinking “I wonder whether there’s anyone there who I’ve been reading recently. Nah, Ian McEwen etc, OK, but then… another smattering of big names I know but am not familiar with, and a few very obscure ones. Oh, what about that bloke who wrote Ghostwritten, nah, bit of an outside chance but… wow! They just said his name!”. So after that, I couldn’t not buy it. Verdict here soon…

(Oh, and in Audiobooks, just listened to Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes. Not sure what to make of that. Think I need another listen, to fill in all the gaps during roundabouts etc., then I might have a better sense of what’s going on.)

Obviously a lot of other

Obviously a lot of other people were thinking about Microsoft Flight Simulator at the same time as we were. Microsoft have confirmed that they won’t be including the twin towers in their next version, have rubbished the idea that the terrorists learnt to fly using their software (hmmm… so the software’s not that realistic then… even though in the same press release Microsoft say that it is. S’funny, the one trained pilot I know said that it’s a lot harder to fly a computer flight simulator than it is to fly a real plane, which I imagine is true – driving on a computer doesn’t bear much relation to the real world because there are no external cues to help you, just a screen and some sounds). Despite the reassurances from Microsoft, some retailers are taking the software off their shelves. And femail, like me, are tempted to fly straight into the towers for the helluvit.