82 days ago
I have written before about Olaf’s godfather Joe. In his mother’s stomach, he left Corfu just in time in 1941 when the Italians were in charge, heading to Egypt and then to Israel before washing up in England. Those Jews who did not get out in time were shipped out by the Germans en masse, when the Hun took over from the Italians, first to Piraeus then, by train, to Auschwitz.
299 days ago
I hope that by now you have all ordered the last book by my late father, Nobody’s Kingdom, a history of Northern Albania. If not make sure you order today before stocks run out. Only kidding, I realise this is a minority interest. Nobody’s Kingdom is the follow up to Badlands Bordlands which covered southern Albania’s history.
605 days ago
I wonder if, in places like bourgeois East Oxford where at least one house in every street flies a Palestinian flag all year round, how many candles are burning this Holocaust Memorial Day. I suspect rather more will be burning on Friday as the chattering classes mourn our exit from the European Superstate founded a few years after the last failed attempt at European unification.
1700 days ago
I once dated a woman who, it turned out, was a holocaust denier. That is to say she started to argue that the numbers had been greatly exaggerated. I ended that relationship on the spot. The problem is that you cannot argue with a denier.
What is a fact?
1739 days ago
No! We are attacking a company whose CEO Amit Ben Haim happens to be Jewish because that company has committed securities fraud and lied to its investors. This is a pathetic play the men - because apparently we are all anti-semites here even our writers who happen to be Jewish themselves - not the ball technique. My own writings on matters relating to both anti semitism and the state of Israel should leave you in no doubt where I stand. One of my favourite videos of recent years was recorded in Berlin and is HERE. Another article which moved me greatly was when I visited the synagogue in Corfu. This has a personal link for me.
1754 days ago
Many on the left are, these days, prone to label any populist right wing leader as a fascist. Or when that loses its meaning since it now covers so many folks they use the term Nazi instead. There is no evidence that Donald Trump or Nigel Farage or the editor of the Daily Mail want to gas the Jews or invade Albania and Ethiopia but hell why not lump them with those right wingers of old. And thus we are today being warned that Austria might elect Europe's first fascist leader since Franco in the shape of Norbert Hofer.
2007 days ago
For lunch today for less than £15 the Mrs and I enjoyed two glasses of ouzo ( both me), a Greek coffee, mineral water, breads, a fine Greek Salad, some amazing mushrooms baked in vinegar and local sausage. I was not allowed any Dakos which is a Cretan speciality as the Mrs says I have had enough already. For those who have not enjoyed it Dakos is a creamy form of feta and oregano and chopped tomato on top of a barley rusk,a hard form of bread. It is quite magnificent. Simple Greek food is a delight and a reason to come here.
2264 days ago
A bit of a difference this week as I explain the numerous reasons to book a holiday in Greece in 2015. I am serious. I then take you through two or three suggested trips which are not mainstream but offer you Greece with a difference. There is a Northern trip taking in Albania, Meteora, Arta and one entrance to the underworld. And a trip in the South taking in Napfio, Mycenae, Corinth, Delphi, Olympia and the mani. I neglected to say that the main entrance to Hades is at the foot of the Mani. And there is an offbeat island near Athens I recommend - Agistri. This is the year to see Greece on the cheap and there is so much to enjoy.
2427 days ago
The Mrs is away visiting her folks in the grim frozen Northern post-industrial wastelands and so it is just myself and the cats living a chaotic life here in Bristol. I am not sure the house is terribly tidy and my routine is shot to pieces and so at 6 PM I went up to bed for a nap with the cats but awoke with a start two hours later thanks to a shocking nightmare.
This rather startled the cats who were somewhat perturbed at the intrusion of a stranger in what they regard as their bed although it is in fact that in which the Mrs and I sleep.
As it happens I had two interviews at Oxford, one not quite as successful as the other. Like Evelyn Waugh I was rejected by Christchurch, The House, the college of the establishment and the thick aristocracy and also the college attended by most of my family. And like Evelyn Waugh, I ended up at Hertford, a modest and impoverished establishment rather looked down upon by House types for admitting women, Northerners and grammar school boys. I was thinking about those two interviews as I lay awake pondering my nightmare but the actual history is for another day.
Suffice to say that there is a tradition of great writers being rejected by the House only to end up at Herford.
Back to the nightmare. For some reason it appeared that my second Oxford interview has been unsuccessful as my first but somehow I had been offered a third bite at the cherry
2986 days ago
My comrade Brokerman Dan urges me to read an article in The Guardian about “The hidden Greece – the Cyclades” There are a number of reasons why I shall not do that. And the main one is that this is not the Real Hidden Greece
There is of course the obvious point that anything in the Guardian is by definition rubbish. I cannot think what a sensible fellow like Dan is doing polluting his mind in this way. But then there is the corruption of travel writing. The economics of travel supplements are thus:
1. Journalists are often flown out by a Tourist board to be taking on a lovely jolly. It is not in their interests to write bad things or they will get few invites so they usually write sycophantic crap.
2. Supplements make money by selling adverts. Any region which has a stack of people able to afford to advertise in the Guardian is by definition not hidden but developed.
As it happens the Cyclades are well work tourist destinations. So how about this as a “hidden Greece” trip:
2986 days ago
For my last few days on holiday I am back chez Spiros. This is breaking news. Last year I had an almost personal service as the hotel Karina in Benitses was almost deserted. I checked in last night and got the last room. Chez Spiros now has all 24 rooms booked out for a month. The man himself is over the moon. He has a new confident strut but remembers his old pals who provided custom when no-one else would and we were squeezed in to a family room at our normal rate. It was the last room going.
I am delighted for my friend. It must have been a worrying time when I was his only guest. Apparently overall tourist numbers are 9% up in Corfu this year. That is still way down on the old norm but folks are happy that the decline seems to have been reversed at last. And clearly quality ( if a bit down at heel establishments) like chez Spiros are the ones benefitting first.
I like to think that I am a trendsetter.
2993 days ago
The deluded lefty thought she was being clever booking us out of chez Spiros and into another place closer to Corfu town. Chez Spiros may have temperamental showers but it is clean, if you ask for a double bed you get it, it has a lovely pool and a laissez faire attitude to rules on swimming. It is peaceful and quiet, Spiros is a lovely bloke, the beach is 50 yards away and there are relatively decent restaurants half a mile away. And it costs 25 Euro a day.
Instead I find myself in the hotel Anita where we have paid 50 Euro a night for twin beds ( having ordered a double, don’t tell her father) in a cramped little room about half the size of that chez Spiros but which is rich in wildlife – that is to say mosquitos. I have been bitten all over.
I kind of knew I’d loathe
2998 days ago
You may remember that last summer I spent a long while as the sole guest of a hotelier in Corfu called Spiros. I am back. He greeted me like an old friend and there was good news and bad.
The bad news is that I do not have his undivided attention. There seem to be two other rooms occupied this year. The good news concerns money. My rate per night has fallen from 35 Euro a year ago to 25 Euro this time. And as a bonus, Spiros has given up trying to quit smoking and so now buys his own rather than smoking all of mine. That is worth another Euro and a half a day.
Sitting in the pool this afternoon (all alone) I pondered the suggestions from our correspondents in the GNSH that is Stoke on Trent that after my experiences in Athens I should abandon Greece and book a holiday in the Potteries. I am assured that Stoke has a brand new bus station, is 30 degrees in the shade and has much else to commend itself. Truly it sounds like the new Athens of the North… well at least in terms of youth unemployment it probably is.
Hmmmm, shall I swap lounging the pool in 34 degree heat with an almost personal service of café frappes from Spiros for an afternoon trekking round the pottery heritage trail? It is a hard call. I promise that one day I shall go visit David and Chris in Stoke for a bit of welfare scrounger porn, but on balance for a summer break, I have to conclude that Greece more than edges it.
2999 days ago
I am now in Corfu preparing for five days of rest and writing before my deluded lefty partner arrives to whisk me off to the former socialist paradise that is Albania. I travelled here by bust from Athens – a 10 hour trip and so feel a little on the tired said as we arrived at 5 AM. Athens Bus station is a total shit hole. It is what I imagine that Stoke on Trent is like. Only hotter.
I arrived early (fleeing the clip joint) to buy my ticket and wandered into a ticket hall with a desk for each location. At that point there were four of us trying to buy tickets and I counted 11 staff manning the desks.
The Corfu counter had no-one behind it but a full ashtray (in a non-smoking building) and cup of coffee suggested that there was life somewhere. But fear not,
3004 days ago
I have seven hours to kill before catching the bus from Corfu to Athens. Having bought my ticket I have wandered into the Old Town of Corfu to my favourite restaurant on this island. Head past the main square where they play cricket (there seems to be no game today) and behind the main poart of the old town and wander outside the City wall and you are here.
The restaurant is on a spit looking out to see straight ahead and to my right is the old palace where Prince Phillip was born. It is a little bit more expensive than the main tourist gaffes in the centre of town but the food is wonderful and it is relatively quiet. Occassionally a large ferry passes by and the wash ripples ashore creating a bit of disturbance but that is about it.
As I sip my first frappe of the break I open up my email in box to receive this cracker from a prize dickhead called Mark Mcelney.
One thing I would like to ask is why have you been publishing such lies on cupid and others and how much are the hedge funds paying for this?
Hmmm, Mark care to list the lies? I think you will find everything I have written on Cupid and others is factually correct. As to payment from hedge funds? Would you care to show us your evidence for this claim of yours? Hmmmm you have none. Because it is pure hogwash. You are a paranoid delusional dickhead.
And with that it is time to order my first lunch in Greece of this break.
3004 days ago
I have explained before my family’s incredibly strong links to Greece. My father’s mother’s family were classical scholars writing books about the place 150 years ago. Both of my father’s maternal uncles are buried there: one fell down a mountain and is buried at Delphi, the other was killed in the Second World War and is buried in Athens. My father’s mother was named after a Greek island – er..Lesbos. It all had a different sort of meaning in 1900. My father’s sister married a Hobhouse ( Byronologists will understand that). My father writes books on the place and it was always a place for family holidays. It seems the family is bound to poor Hellas. And so it is where I headed off to last summer as things fell apart.
And now for the second time this year I head back. This time on my own with my rucksack. My partner (whose sister is, as it happens, married to a Greek) arrives in ten days to be shown a bit of Albania and a couple of places in Northern Greece. But first I have nine days with firm plans in terms of destination for the first four but no hotels booked at all. I shall just see what happens, try to walk a few pounds off in the heat and see where I end up.
The journey starts at Gatwick at 5.30 AM and so when I lock up at Real Man in an hours’ time, having recharged my phone, I shall head off to the station to prepare for a few hours writing at the airport. Tomorrow night I am on a bus from Corfu to Athens. I would imagine that I will be tired enough to sleep for most of the journey. And then at 6 AM Thursday the holiday really begins as I head into the Southern Peloponnese. My laptop – as ever – travels with me as does my video camera so, fear not, this website is NOT on holiday.
PS. I am naturally wearing my It’s Time to Leave T-shirt as I head off. I feel sure that the odd Greek would agree with the sentiment.
3348 days ago
I have written before about Joe Levy, godfather to Olivia and my very good friend. We met when he was the handyman who looked after – among other things – a house in Swiss Cottage converted into six flats where I lived with Olivia’s mother. The two houses I bought/co-bought after that were redesigned by me and Joe put my ideas into practice. He is truly a faultless human being, bar his support for Chelsea. He was born here in Corfu and is, as you may have guessed, Jewish.
Yesterday I followed the sign to the “Jewish Quarter.” There is no real quarter just a synagogue which is in impeccable condition, is fully renovated and was being cared for by a rather fat old lady who was talking animatedly in Hebrew to some Israeli visitors. Needless to say she also spoke perfect English. The building is more than 400 years old. And in 1940 there were around 2000 Jews living on the Island – among them Joe Levy then still wearing nappies.