Category Archives: Fantasy

A FAN AND YOUNG PUBLISHER BRINGS OUT SCREAM OF THE WHITE BEAR

Well, people have enquired many times here, and it has taken eight or more years, but a fan here, supporter, young author himself and online US publisher, Jonathan Thurston, will publish SCREAM OF THE WHITE BEAR by David Clement-Davies, in 2018. Actually it is to be entitled CRY OF THE WHITE BEAR, in the spirit of a new adventure, and leaving behind the really terrible battle that was fought over it and other principals of art, law, truth and decency, with the major New York publisher Harry N. Abrams.  Which, because so much is about money over principle in the world today, has sky-rocketed to success with Young Adult books like A Diary Of A Wimpy Kind, that has sold over 180 Million copies.  The real story of its delay is probably as powerful as the book, but although David is sceptical about so much about the Internet world, or indeed how you really publish without the powers that be, or how much people are truly reading and connecting now, it is entirely appropriate that a young man of talent and passion like Jonathan tries to bring it to the world, with a quiet apology from the author for having disappointed his fans and readers for too long.

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Filed under Books, Culture, Fantasy, New York, Publishing, The Arts, The Phoenix Story, Uncategorized, Young Adult

CYPRESSES, CORFEATS, NAUSICAA AND A HOUSE ON PARADISE ISLAND

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The island, she won’t let you go,” whispered the hazel-eyed local on Corfu’s Agios Gordios beach, on the West Coast of my magic isle. She told me about her struggle and satisfaction in becoming a tourist rep, the legend of Nausicaa finding naked Odysseus here, washed up in the surf, and noticed the Disk of Phaestos hanging around my neck – Crete’s un-deciphered Linear B. I had bought it in my favourite artisan shop in Corfu town, where I get charming old postcards too. Then I’d been upset when it had tarnished in the bath and had taken it back to complain. “Life is never straight, my friend” the owner had twinkled nomicly, trying to convince me it made a better story too, as he assured me it was Stirling Silver, that very British hallmark. I was pleased above all that I hadn’t been lied to by him or been made a fool of either.

On Agios Gordios, this sudden Nausicaa and I joked about life, the real island of Corfu, ‘mad and wild’ Corfeats (according to other Greeks) and paradises naturally lost, or sometimes won again. If Corfu really was Homeric Scheria, at Thucydides claimed, home to those westernmost Phoenicians too, and so perhaps that link with the teacher of Zeno, Parmenides, she plays the strangest role in his rebirth and journey home. A symbol of half unrequited love, perhaps half mother figure, so much so one British scholar remarked that Nausicaa’s beach encounter and laundry scene is so realistic it meant that blind Homer was really a woman. Then the translations of Linear A on Crete turned out to be a laundry list! On Scheria cunning Odysseus, ship wrecked by Poseidon for tricking and blinding his one-eyed son Polyphemus, had to penetrate the palace of Nausicaa’s father, to get help, or breach what Wikipedia so anachronistically calls its magical ‘security systems’.

Since life is a beach though, what could be more magical then than to drink cold beer in the golden October sun, to swim in crystal waters but abandon some of the cliches too, as time and contact help me really experience a place. It has been a wonderful five weeks writing Dragon In The Post here, living in my rented house on Paradise Island, with its gentle garden, a place of recent barbecues and a new Dutch friend who was born here picking garden herbs for the marinade. So it was a bit of a shock to discover time rushing on, as ever, like Chronos eating his own children. The little ferry to Vidos from Corfu port has already stopped running, after three days of very heavy rains and gloomy skies. The Liston arcade in Corfu town still lights up and throbs at night, and the tourist shops bristle in the day, the electric evenings too, as a Maestre, a masterful Northerly wind, sweeps in to dispel the clouds around the great Venetian fort and the 18th century shuttered houses. But the season here is definitely winding to a pleasant autumnal close. Winter threatens in the falling leaves, the coming browns, the cooling airs, the death of each year’s life, but with something far less threatening than England and home.

On Agios Gordios we went swimming together at sunset in front of that burning red fire disk of exploding Hydrogen and Helium, so far beyond the real horizon, seemingly dissolving into a near-whispering, wine-dark sea. The bay held us like a friend, as the slanting afternoon sun painted our skins more golden and that renewed clarity of low afternoon light made everything sharp and real and very fresh and beautiful indeed. It picked out the shape of ‘Buddha Rock’ too, lying on his back on a nearby islet, beyond the Black Rocks, that to me looks more like a jolly Norwegian Troll, with a gigantic, bulbous nose. Then something of the ancient Gods descended, and light and sea and dying sun-disc became a filmy one.

The water does feel different suddenly, like warm silk, below the vaulting Cypresses climbing the slopes like markers to the island’s vigour, and as you stand in the sea, looking back at the hills, smiling or laughing, opening your arms, who would want her to let you go? The generous rains are the cause, and Corfu’s miracle micro climate, although with 10-15 days solid rain in September, it has not exactly been the perfect season. I’ve seen more of Corfu than I ever did last year though, swapping a battered bicycle that once kept me fitter for a sharp-engined white Mercedes (thanks to a free Airport upgrade, although with a struggle). So doing far more of the winding mountain roads, to Halikounas, Sinarades or Paliokastritsa, with its beetling Castello St Angelo and plunging, impossibly turquoise blues. Corfu always gives you a newly inspiring vista and opens your heart and mind, whenever you get locked too much inside yourself. “Oh, think twice, it’s just another day in Paradise” beats the Phil Collins song incessantly from Corfu Radio, of course, with its warning about forgetting other people’s problems. No, sorry, not at the moment.

It was driving up to a beer festival in Arillas in the North West this weekend though that I got to see much more of the ‘interior’ too – Those ever fascinating twisting, witch-hair olive groves, tipping down the slopes into mysteries of cool shade, the lifting massifs of hills, a sudden plain rich with wildflowers, pomegranate trees and pools of yellow sunlight, a flock of very smelly goats and, of course, among such lush vegetation, God-tall Cyprus trees everywhere, like perky sentinels, or officers of the watch. “Do you know their sex?” whispered someone in my garden, with a wink, as if introducing me to some great life secret, and of course the tall, straight ones are boys and the rounded, shorter, pear-like ones are girls. It’s all quite simple really.

I prodded my new friend on Agios Gordios and impressed her talking not about natural Phallic symbols, but the Omphalos, the World Navel and so the belly button. Also a time marker at ancient Delphi, once centre of the ‘known’ and imagined, where those weird women sat on their tripods, breathing in natural hallucinogenic vapours and whispering impossible oracles, or riddling warnings! She countered with talk of columns and the light on Delos, where the place seems to give birth to light itself. Perhaps then, while I learnt her real names are a feminized mix of the ever-present Orthodox Saint here and anti-Turkish intercessor Saint Spiridon and Alexander himself, such a green and fecund isle is an eternal antidote to that superstitious Greek association of Cyprus trees with death, misfortune and graveyards, like the sound of Scop’s Owls hooting in the night.

They are superstitions and legends much explored in the novel I’ve been reading here too, by Sofka Zinovieff, The House On Paradise Street. It is not a masterpiece, no Homer, with little of the literary panache or indeed sparkling charm of a Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, but it is compelling and more importantly valuable. In solid prose it moves between the present, especially that moment of recent Greek ‘crisis’ of 2008, where many worlds seemed to fall apart, and the Occupation by the Nazis, until 1942. Then the bitter tragedy of the Greek Civil War, through the dictatorship of The Colonels too. They could certainly make a far better film of it than that atrocious Americanisation of Captain Corelli with Nicholas Cage. Zinovieff writes like a journalist discovering fiction, which I believe she is, and with that name but also an agent in London, you wonder if English is her first language. She is married to a Greek and has two children. In a sense it is always a story somehow in exile from itself, seeking its own heart, but it is most fascinating both in providing a foreigner’s eye and experience too, with the detail of a tour guide and travel writer, sometimes a touch of the poet, and for its discussion of the British legacy too.

On Corfu they still play cricket!” is the patriotic hero Nikitas’s dismissive quip that references this island in the novel. Nikitas’s sudden death provokes the historical investigation by Antigone his mother, an exile to Soviet and then modern Super Capitalist and ‘Cowboy’ Moscow, forced to abandon him to her sister as a baby, and his English wife Maud, bringing up their children in the anguished environment of student riots and the modern ‘Crisis’ in Athens, while coping with death, loss, age and decay that springs out so suddenly in everyone’s little life. The novel moves chapter by chapter between their competing narratives and one of its biggest flaws is that as such it internalizes none of its male protagonists, perhaps men are the book’s real Greek mystery and threat, but also creates few characters you can really love and so passionately identify with.

Its two central stings in the tale, most clever in the use of the seeming acronym ‘Wasp’ to reference those endless political groups from ELAS to PASOC, and least emotionally satisfying in the revelation over the British protagonist Johnny’s real human love affair, could have been far better handled dramatically. Meaning their power, outrage or beauty are not sought out from within for the reader and so lose effect. Yet they sustain the action and the themes and help a book approach depth and sometimes passion too, if, and precisely because of it’s dark themes, it is perhaps an attempt to avoid passion and get at fact and clarity in recording events many don’t know about. “Passion,” sparkled the girl on Agios Gordios, “That’s what Greeks are.” Meanwhile a book relayed the story of the brave women of Souli opposite Corfu dancing to their deaths in 1803, rather than surrendering to the Turks, or the 400 pleats in the traditional costumes of freedom fighters to mark every year of Ottoman occupation, as it reminds you that passion also brings a talent for tragedy.

I felt peculiarly British then as I saw them playing Cricket the other day in white flannels on the green in front of the Liston and the beautiful Archaeological Museum in Corfu town. “Pakistanis” observed a Greek friend though, with more than a hint of that schadenfreude that sometimes brands all Albanians too, and which is far more prevalent, and redolent with a threat that you can’t feel on Britain’s little island, so much closer to that real fault line of modern Europe; Turkey and the Bosphorous. That evening we listened to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here in the tiny Time Machine bar, then of course I saw the headline about UKIP’s victory back in the UK and its effect on the Tory Party and remembered the threat of atavism or real economic and cultural conflict is spreading everywhere.

That bar was part of the delight of getting to know Corfeats and a place though. Like tea and backlava with my friend and a young mathematician and Wikipedia guru opposite the Cafe Bristol. Or a game of ‘Gringlish’ and 1980’s Trivial Pursuit in my friend’s half built house with a view, as a storm fired lightening bolts across the bay, and too much booze after supper in my favourite restaurant here, Stimati in the village of Viros. There Spiros deals with his talent and ache as an artist by covering the walls with paintings bright with those ‘Iconic’ or primary Byzantine colours, although unfolding erotic Jungian dreamscapes, instead of God, in between the cooking. While his Scots wife Margaret bustles through with efficient practicality, stopping to discuss Scottish Independence, or to share some clear-eyed jokes and fun.

As for things being not quite cricket, or perhaps exactly Imperial Cricket, down in Corfu town I had noticed how I had noticed several young Pakistani players with surprise too, since this is what equates to a National Greek Cricket team. As the odd African peddles watches on the beaches, or there are so many cheap China stores here. Meanwhile a vastly tall, aging Greek Heavy-Metal hippy, with an Archbishop Makarios beard the length of a shaggy dog story, begs defiantly among the pretty cobbles and the wealthy trippers in the Old Town. Thankfully Corfu is no island to embrace the likes of Golden Dawn though, except perhaps in humorous talk of Independence for Corfu itself. Then, with its highly successful tourist industry and relative wealth, including a deal of British ownership, nor has it faced quite the hardships on the mainland. Despite complaints about sudden house taxes imposed, more than temporarily too, stories of local graft among doctors, to plump the Middle Classes, or that eternal accusation of political corruption at the top in Athens. More than that though, however bad things get, Corfu has an expansion and generosity that is in the landscape itself.

The British legacy is of course very strong on Corfu, the map of which looks a bit like Britain turned upside down. Not only with the cricket, but Prince Phillip having been born at Mon Repos, and celebrated English visitors here, from Edward Lear and the Durrell brothers to Joanna Lumley. ‘Kensington-on-Sea’ they call Kassiopi, South East of Sidari, the island’s most Northern point, bulging in the summer with rich Notting Hillites from London. Both of them above Kalami, where Lawrence Durrell and his lover had that White House on the sea, the property I think now owned by Lord Rothschild, or perhaps that’s above. Lawrence was of course a very different creature to his brother Gerald, that oh so British naturalist of the charming My Family and Other Animals. Whose practical, observant, scientific echo reminds you of the Brit care of local animals here; the tiny kittens like pocket watches and the battered cat families that survive around the dustbins. Perhaps I share fictional Nikitas’s prejudice against Right-Wing people, (except when you’re trying to get some decent service, or to fix my fridge, yet again), but I would translate it to people who don’t like animals instead.

Lawrence’s different kettle of fish to his brother, like some familial fault line at the centre of Paradise Street too, was in his attraction to Eastern philosophy, his protracted philandering, that help some remark he was ‘not a nice man’, but his skill too at history and very gorgeous travel writing, that did a great service to Greece. I’ve never read the Alexandria Quartet but know his painting the island of Corfu as ‘Prospero’s Cell’, referencing a bogus local legend a friend told him that Shakespeare’s The Tempest was set here. As if imagination and literature, from Homer to now, are not a country to themselves, as Martin Amis once remarked in shock at the Islamic reaction to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. Well, the art of the novel, and of course the older ‘God Consciousness’ of Myth too, in the very emergence of language and storytelling itself, is that they aren’t entirely separate countries either, if they have power and meaning.

As for the map, physical and internal, and my obviously scruffier end of the isle below the airport, whose open runway always gives me a strange buzz, it is apparently Agios Stephanos to the North of Kalami that attracts the true cognoscenti and the elite ‘Philhelenes’ so questioned in The House on Paradise Street. So the novel discusses that superiority of knowledge and power that in the eyes of Nikitas made the British almost as bad as other conquerors, from Lord Elgin to even mosquito-bitten Lord Byron, but especially Churchill, with his carving up of Europe with Stalin at Yalta. A pact that saw both British and American influence after 1947 go unchallenged by the Soviets, although a role that other Greek protagonists in the story are very grateful for. It made me think of the pretty waitress in the Tea shop who had said so warmly “I like the British”. In the factual historical postscript to the book and with regard to Metaxa and the Colonels, who I first heard about personally on holiday visits as a child with my parents, when Greece was still a Homeric dream, comes that phrase that has haunted the World from London to Iran since WWII – “supported by the CIA.”

Meanwhile my chance friend on Agios Gordios tried to mimic being so ‘verrrrry British’, although she hardly knew where to look when I told her that at Edinburgh University I had once visited a friend at Broom Hall, only to see a tiny bit of the Parthenon on the Drawing Room wall.  It was the Bruce home, and so Lord Elgin’s house and to be fare to myself I tried to pierce the grandeur of it by pretending to steal the cutlery. That Elgin Marble thing, or how you rewrite or correct history in a globalised World, or indeed if you should in a multicultural epicentre like London and The British Museum, serving so many visitors and scholars too, is an aspect that is intelligently dismissed by Nikitas in visiting Maud in London.

So instead to the human horror of war and especially Civil War and the atrocities on both sides, which was of course redefined by that super battle that began before World War II ever ended, the function and ideology of money and so power, Capitalism versus Communism, as the Cold War began. Fought with such vigour by the likes of Allen Dulles in Switzerland and then from America. That East Coast lawyer, OSS man and first Civilian director of the CIA, and great share holder in the American Fruit Company too. It is Churchill’s role I don’t really know about though, who incidentally was brought to power instead of Chamberlain partly through the offices of my grandfather Clement Davies, as Liberal leader and head of the All-Party Group in the UK Parliament.

The novel is fair minded by giving different voices and perspectives, just as one character says Greece was not a British Colony. Although what truth can be reached if Greece still thinks it was ‘them’ doing it all cynically, like modern day Politicians up at the top? When graft can go from top to bottom, all humans have potentially murderous instincts, the British Empire bankrupted itself fighting Nazi evils, for any Imperial evils, as America achieved a new Hegemony, and that ruling instinct was always towards law and order, especially in the vicious and tragic maelstrom of the Balkans. Churchill did not have the power to impose his will at Yalta and had to engage in real-politique, just as the Philhelene ideal was perhaps betrayed by the horrible realities of war, resources and survival. Something to wake up to, as much as Communist Idealists in softer countries woke up to the horrors of Stalin.

A historical postscript reminds you of the fact Greece did not become a country until 1830 either and then references the ‘catastrophe’ of Smyrna in 1927. Not so much Ethnic Cleansing as Ethnic Rearranging, shifting 500,000 Turks and 400,000 Greeks, always the problem of the Nation State, especially when religious identity and ideology steps in too – Christian versus Islam, that fault line so much clearer at the Bosphorous. One that competes with a ‘Greece’ that stretches back to Byzantium and the Eastern Empire. “I’m orthodox and respect their faith,” one waiter had grunted, looking out to sea and talking of ‘them’, after new beheadings on TV, as I failed to get the boat to Vidos. But he certainly didn’t agree when I gave him my weak-livered ‘One Planet’ liberalism. It was of course Ataturk though who tried to modernize a sclerotic Ottoman world, removed his mother’s headscarf in public saying she was too beautiful to hide her face, shifted the Capital to Ankara and tried to separate religion from the State.

Fatherland and God are defined as powerful forces in Greece in Zinovieff’s novel too, as they were in Spain, against those supposedly ‘Godless’ and youthful instincts to create a new world among the often Communist Partisans fighting the Nazis from the mountains or the idealistic Red Brigades. Meanwhile though The House on Paradise Street attempts a story that heals with the instincts of a woman and mother, while not sitting on the fence either. That phrase then – ‘atrocities on both sides’ – which is such a challenge in places like Syria now, is not quite good enough and is countered with the instinct to expose the Right Wing prison camps, the suffering in women’s detention centres, being much a book about women, and indeed the often ruthless support of the British Establishment up to 1947, that included decapitations of at least dead soldiers.

All potentially at the heart of modern debates too about the role of Greece in Europe, or Germany in Greece, just as a new German company was just exposed as one of the most corrupt of all. Or what happened when the European Troika insisted both on restructuring and savage cutbacks, and the actions of the likes of the Universal banking Spider, Goldman Sachs. It was interesting to see Zinovief take a differently slanted line then in the story of Maud’s children, echoing many things I have heard too, from my Economics teacher friend, or local mothers, about the old fashioned rote teaching methods here, in a sense the patriarchalism of history and National loyalty, and that much of it is about the frustrations and bewilderment of young people. So it references the murder of a young student by police, or the student deaths under the Colonels too, but balances that with a skepticism about ‘hoodie’ anarchy and lost generations. So too I’ve heard among new younger friends perhaps a worrying tendency to grow old or give up too soon, though it’s something many feel facing the vast capital gulfs of today. Don’t give up. Remember the light, the beauty, the future and the Gods that make you eternally young. Greece does have a working Democracy, it is investigating the crimes of Golden Dawn members and it also has a right to talk about the flaws of the European or Global Capital model too. Meanwhile Zinovieff can use the protection of fiction to address things that might cause offense here, or furious over-reaction, like why driving is so challenged, smoking is everywhere, or how the loud shouts of malaka at every slam of a backgammon piece sometimes frightens the non natives. Others might find it a quality of foreign difference and charm.

Much meat for my Greek guest at a barbecue who seemed convinced everything from to Ebola to Iraq is a global conspiracy and that old bug bear too, an Israeli one. With that you can’t really argue the facts though, as much as I might agree with the potential conspiracy of Capital and Corporations to always reproduce themselves, sometimes at deep human cost, because it usually descends into a kind of paralyzed mysticism. Yet I also wanted to chat to him about Parmenides, and one theory that the belief the entire history of Western Civilization is based on Socratic rationalism is in fact a misreading or writing of Plato, Parmenides writing just one fragmentary poem on Nature, and about the Snake and the Cadeucus, theatre, dream caves and Aesclepius too. Perhaps that was the lead in to the discussion too of how to learn and earn the joys of just living simply, free of the storms of the world, in such a beautiful place.

As for Britishness, my other experience of it here though was far less dramatic or imperial, at a friend’s birthday in the little Paradise bar overlooking ‘Mouse Island’, Pontikonisis, just below my house, where someone said the Albanian owner foolishly watered the wine. A group of fifteen English ladies, a German and my fiesty American friend, met for drinks and oily snacks. All of whom had married Greek husbands in the heyday of their romance with Paradise, like Shirley Valentines swept into a sea of passion and new possibility. Another English wife I talked to the day before in Corfu Town though now finds that roots are roots and that for her there remains a gulf of understanding or experience at times with her Greek man. The ladies at the supper are mothers, have jobs teaching, or working in the tourist industry, face the common issues of survival and every day life. Sometimes perhaps a cultural paucity too, or a lack of stimulation perhaps, common to young locals too, though Corfu Town is home to the Ionian University, that makes the likes of the Arillas beer festival a weekend must, engagement with the amateur theatre group vital, or talk of celebrity a place of a special frisson. The big, exciting world.

Now though, since the day Jude Law came, to be naughty or not in his villa, the reps have to sign special non-disclosure agreements. We all like the wild, the naughty and the indiscreet too, life-gossip, if not quite the loucheness of Kavos in the far South. I drove down one day, in search of who knows what, to find Kavos, even emptied of tourists, a gaudy horror story of strip pubs, indecorous lounge pools and Medical Clinics seemingly every 100 metres, to take in the drunk and the wounded, from the evening fights or the blow job competitions. The mayor complained loudly when a British Documentary about it was screened, as if it had offended Greek Honour, or Manhood. In that it probably does offer a cliche of a Brit Package Tour, ever pilloried as being the drunks or thugs abroad. But Corfu is big enough, sexy enough, roomy enough, to allow for that too, like a touch of the dark side in the Southern subconscious. I now call Kavos Corfu’s Torrid Zone.

So to sitting in the immortal Robins Nest in Agios Gordios, the charming little bar run by a sparky lady from Chicago who has been here 29 years, seems to have done everything, lets people flow through her place like magic and say’s she dislikes money and is ‘a trader’, the trade being human potential and fun. From dressing up parties, to the beautiful hand painted rocks that litter her place. “We don’t have Greek comedians” said the young car mechanic glumly, over a Trivial Pursuit question, and there are not many jokes in The House on Paradise Street either, but here there’s lots of laughter. So folk come, year in year out, friends and near family, Robin has four Greek children – from America, Britain, Norway, Serbia, although not everywhere. Since Robin thinks I’m far too posh, and that Pink Palace Hotel above is so very pink, it brings a slight yearning for the days when Sir Frederick Adam got so romantic with his Greek wife. As for how little I know, I never realized William Ewart Gladstone was a High Commissioner in Greece. But that world is gone, as the novel warns modern Greeks should embrace a new if however confusing world that they can only understand by jettisoning both some of the prejudices and especially bitter memories of the past, that essentially feed on the dead. The problem is that Greek identity or the search for it among the sense of pride and self worth is so mixed up in the past, and Soumian’s Marble Steep, that abandoning it sometimes seems like abandoning the Gods themselves, or the roots of language. On the other hand, one of my friends hates all that Greek Bazouki music and all life movement is a battle between past and present, localised or wider horizons. Last year my attempt to contact The Lawrence Durrell Society, for instance, as a Brit writer perhaps dreaming of Consulates, exotic Balkan Trilogies or sexy spies, resulted in a very desultory response. With not only the discovery that the budget had been slashed, and the lease on their building gone, but that lunch up North was far more appealing than making an effort to have a drink with a nosy Brit like me.

Hey ho, perhaps Corfu needs some brand new writers and poets, I thought, if anyone reads anymore, especially as I watched a gaggle of Russian sailors decamp around Corfu town last month, in those huge, flat, wide-brimmed sailor’s caps, that always look decidedly fascist. Apparently one of Russia’s largest warships was in port, The Moscow, docked among the giant ferries sailing between Turin or Venice, and bristling with missiles the size of White Mercedes. Young men in a foreign town, they sat politely in the Souvlaki restaurants, or gathered to drink beer and smoke cigarettes, as they got snaps and it all became part of their life memories too. Perhaps, with Mr Putin’s taste for muscle-flexing and the anguish in Ukraine, they’ll do what the Brits did, and not so long ago according to a nostalgic English friend at super who told me her husband’s stolen boat turned up on the news, used as transport for Albanian drug smugglers, and invite the growing phalanx of Russian package tourists swarming to the island on board for evening cocktails. You hear the Slavic voices in my local shop, Nikki Foros, or on the promontory below the big hotel beyond Mouse Island. It all seems so unreal though, on this generous, gentle island, where EasyJet plans to open Winter routes next year. Except when the sun sets and that nagging warning voice comes again, as you watch the News or look at Mr Putin’s face, that history not only repeats itself, but never learns the lessons of history.

So to what’s above me on the hillside, and apropos of a friend writing to ask me if I had been to the house and palace of Sisi. That rather bizarre and tragic woman, Elizabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria, murdered by a young anarchist in 1898, often lived in the Achilleon, the fine white marble mansion bursting with old curios, wide terraces with marvelous views and statues of the ancient Gods, to remind you of Germanic Philhelenism. Achilles is the centre piece, of course, the greatest of especially Greek warriors, only to remind you his wound was weak humanity, or mortality itself, as his mother dipped him in the river Styx, but had to hold him by that Achilles’ heal. Perhaps we should remember though that Athens, the home of those lost marbles, Democracy and Pericles, was also a warring City State, built by men and founded in slavery, or that the best of Greece, like the best of anything, was always a kind of myth.

The Achilleon is far better and more proudly preserved a place than the likes of the dusty museum on Mon Repos, open to 8pm everyday of the year, at 7 Euros a pop. It is of course also the place where the Greek experiment in Europe was first hammered out and then the bailout too. I didn’t visit again, but had an ice cream outside and enjoyed the Cypruses and the glowing evening sunlight, just beyond the sleepy village of Gastouri. Where thanks to lost English friends I first came to visit Corfu, three years ago. I thought of one whose father was murdered and told my new Dutch friend about it. “It happened” he said, “though it doesn’t really now. Often with two warnings and then a shotgun.” The crime has never been solved. That new friend of nostalgic British memories at the birthday supper had offered me a little flat to buy in Gastouri, but do up too, that wouldn’t exactly break a very down trodden bank yet, unless I got caught up in too much skimming off the top. Which my dutch friend remarked in his father’s experience of building, as he criticized the mentality here, especially in blaming others, planned to return for some Eco-living and bravely defended the honesty of his Albanian neighbour too.

Such things remind you always of real people and real lives beyond the borders, images and isms, washed up or not, which is what The House on Paradise Street is about too. I suddenly wondered and thought too it would not be remotely possible if the economy was not down. So to the real question, whether to stay on here writing through the winter, perhaps renting, and where any roots really are now? I thought of the little painting I had given my Scot’s friend for her birthday, a pleasant watercolour of Mouse island, bought in an art shop in Corfu town, then of that US girl who had so strangely wanted to get a very confusing tattoo – “Sail on Ulysses”. Then of the big eyed girl on Agios Gordios, who had so suddenly vanished that evening at Robin’s bar, with no reason and little rhyme, that put me in a bad mood for days. Who had told me of the ancient legend, that Pontikonisis had been the boat of Nausicaa, transformed by the Gods. It added to Nausicaa’s paradox, because while it was the Phoenicians who took poor, belabouring Odysseus home to Ithaca, and Nausicaa is said to have married his son Telemachus, that name never mentioned to patient Penelope actually means ‘burner of ships’. Hmmm, whatever the myths or truth, sometimes it is so lovely here I wonder if the island will let me go.

David Clement-Davies October 2014

Around the World? The photo is from the road above Agios Gordios on Corfu.

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Filed under Community, Culture, Education, Environment, Fantasy, Language, The Phoenix Story

YASMIN FOSTER’S ART COMES TO FIGHT FOR DRAGON IN THE POST!

Facebook and Social Media ‘Press Release’

CONTRIBUTE NOW OR RAISE YOUR CONTRIBUTION LEVEL TO DRAGON IN THE POST AND, APART FROM OTHER PERKS, ALSO OWN THIS WONDERFUL PAINTING, SPECIALLY DRAWN FOR THE PROJECT, PAINTED, PRINTED AND SIGNED BY YASMIN FOSTER

Fire_Cutter_-_Dragon_in_the_Post

With 23 Days to go, of the highest contributions or raised contributions among the next SIX backers on Indiegogo one person will also own this wonderful Fire Cutter by Yasmin Foster. You can do that right now by going to https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dragon-in-the-post/x/8028980

Thanks so much Yasmin and other frolics to come. – Contacted local papers, cutting the flying film and training for South Downs Walk! Hope you all had a lovely weekend but we need to up the intensity and contributions. PA PRESS

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BITING DOWN ON THE MOULDY CHEESE!

I tell you what, this Mr Moliere’s Mouse thing may be a work of incandescent genius, but what it needs is a bit more bite! So to go inside the old Paris theatre and meet the villains of the piece, lording it up in their balconies, Scarapino, his lady love Scarapina, having her beautiful birthday dress made by Bobolan’s tailoring father Victor, and the rats. Their theme song is very Kurt Weil!

LYRICS – Song of the Rats

Teeth, teeth, as yellow as bile
Ready for work, both mean and vile
Stand on guard at the theatre door
Greet the leader with an ea-ea-ea-ea-ger paw

Kings of crime, Lords of vice
Making slaves of the stupid mice,
Stay awake, don’t take a nap
There’s nothing as strong as a dir-ir-ir-ty rat

Teeth, teeth, as yellow as bile
Ready for work, both mean and vile
Stand on guard at the theatre door
Greet the leader with an ea-ea-ea-ea-ger paw

Spreading hate, loving rage
Always there, to hog the stage
On the move, can’t sit still
The rats bring the teeth that will make mice ill!

Teeth, teeth as yellow as bile
Ready for work both mean and vile…

Enter Scarapina and Scarapino, talking of his Lady wife’s tail…

From Mr Moliere’s Mouse (aka Cheese) by David Clement-Davies and Michael Jeffrey, Copyright Phoenix Ark Press 2014. All rights strictly reserved.

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CHEESE – THE CURTAIN RAISER!

Well, CHEESE fans, aka Mr Moliere’s Mouse, we’ve had a love song between our hero B-b-bobolan and Colette and a stirring ditty from Jean Baptiste Moliere himself, so perhaps it’s time, with a little introduction about the ‘Book’ and the Royal Academy of Music workshops, to meet not Les Mouserables but the Paris mob and the true curtain raiser to the whole show! (Just click on the audio arrow below)

LYRICS – THE SONG OF THE MOB

Where is this and what are we
Wondering what our fate will be?
Marching bravely through the light and shadows,
Paris raises alters and a gallows
Seeking our destiny
Bondage or liberty

Waiting gaily till they serve our supper
Slaving daily for our bread and butter
Yearning for a thrill
Learning how to kill

Look – we’re called the mob
That’s our job!

Have you known such poverty
Can they want equality?!
Sewing clothes that cover toff or peasant
Making, baking, plucking scrawny pheasant,
Theatres, for you to see
Prisons, won’t set us free

Come join us
Come out and join us – The People

Finding roles that we can make our mark in
Paris street girls love to strike a bargain!
Fighting, for a slice
Gambling, with the dice
Dear, they’re such a mob,
That’s our job!

Death is never far away
And fear is just the price we pay
So tell me, where’s my bread,
I need to ply a trade
And so I’ll fight, not be afraid
This I say

Drinking lovely grog
Scoffing, snails and frog,
Hear that noisy mob,
Spare a bob!

(The Mob speak)

Hope is waiting round the bend
A hope that never, ever ends
So show me to his bed
I ache to know the way
And live to love another day
Thus I pray

(The Church Doctors and Nobles speak)

Love is what we need to feel
A love as deep as it is real
Oh help us on our way
And take me by the hand
Together we can understand
Hand in hand

(Nothing more!)

(MEDLEY)

Where is this and who are we
Do we want fraternity?
Raising houses, filled with hope and sadness
Paris brings us joy or lonely madness
Bitter, our life can be
Life’s not – quite up to me!
Scrambling up from filth and utter squalor
Even Priests can wear a dirty collar

Come be us
Your heart beats through us – in Paris

Love is what we need to feel
A love as deep as it is real
So help us on our way
And take me by the hand
Together we can understand
Hand in hand

Living in the drains
Stinking, for our pains
Strolling through the park
Loving, in the dark
Fighting, for the King
Freedom, that’s the thing!
Jostling, in the crowd
Testing – what’s allowed
There, we’re quite a Mob
Just the job!

Enter Mr Moliere!

Copyright David Clement-Davies, Story, Book and lyrics and Michael Jeffrey, Music, Phoenix Ark Press 2014. All rights reserved.

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THE PHOENIX ARK PRESS SOCIAL MEDIA RE-LANDSCAPING PROJECT!

With over 170 dedicated readers instantly following Phoenix Ark Blogs, stories and articles but a quicker and wider outreach on Facebook it is probably easier to follow a story and a crowd funding adventure there. So the second installment of Dragon in The Post has just been put up and you can read the first and the second at the page Stories in the Post – The Dragon tires again by CLICKING HERE Please do Like the page, share it, help build the project but also add your thoughts and comments about whether it is possible and how much it even interests you.

The Kickstarter campaign to turn it into a real book, a thing of beauty and to send it to you, in the post, but also to open a doorway on a grass roots publishing adventure for many brilliant books and ideas was suspended on May 5th, due to the author getting a touch grumpy. It will return!

DCDx

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FIRE BRINGER RETURNS TO THE BOOKSHELVES, TO BACK A DRAGON!

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When the dust settles on the Dragon In The Post kickstarter project running for 17 more days, win or lose, and thanks to the support of younger fans and backers too, an inspiring new generation coming of age, Phoenix Ark Press will bring a classic, Fire bringer, back into print copies again, in the UK and territories not controlled by the US and Canada, where it is still available (we think!). It is real books an author here loved and loves and many fans too, we believe, as opposed to the vast jumble of ebooks being pumped out there, many in part just to test markets. The model must be POD, publishing on demand, at Createspace, Lightening Source or perhaps another printing house.

So an open invitation stands to artists to show their interest now and perhaps win a cover design for that and our ebooks too, or tell us how to re-design everything at Phoenix Ark Press. Just write to us, or comment below. That is much part of the spirit of a Kickstarter project right now too, Dragon in The Post, that is still very much alive but which needs grass roots fire and backing. It can open a door, like a little Firecutter dragon trying to burn a doorway into wonderful worlds (you have to watch the film!), onto many other projects here too, including a Bear epic.

You can join the story of that, help it happen and become part of a wider adventure too by BACKING THE DRAGON!

Thank you again.

PA PRESS

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WITH BRILLIANT FANS, BACKERS AND NOW A MICHELIN STARRED CHEF ON BOARD A STORY AND PUBLISHING EGG WOBBLE ON THE BRINK!

I guess this is really for people like Barb, Mathew and others, backers of Light of The White Bear and long-standing readers here, who haven’t backed the Dragon. So musings on whether I have offended you, by saying too much or having a go at folk who downloaded nearly 8000 free ebooks during a previous campaign, yet didn’t support this time. I really hope not, and you have to realize surviving as a writer can be as difficult as for anyone, but at least I hope I have put a great deal of heart and energy into things. In fact, money or not, large or small, your moral support can be just as important as anything and I have always said a book and publishing project might not even be worth pursuing, even if I hit a 6k target, because somehow a whole doorway has to be opened. One that is not about remorselessly self promoting on Social Media either, but some kind of new spirit, a grass-roots publishing excitement, a shared energy and inspiration, that would get the word and deed out to many people swiftly. To make those Friends of Phoenix Ark Press a reality at last too. So think of a Dragon as leading the charge on many things, like bears, a new wolf book, The Christmas Code and indeed your projects too. Can it be done though?

Dragon in the Post, like that strange blue egg wobbling in Gareth Mark’s suddenly delivered adventure, in the post, now hovers precariously on the brink – at 33% we are nearly at where Light of The White Bear didn’t make it, yet we stall have a fiery 20 days to go! To make the break through. To hatch a publisher. To crack it open!

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With such creative younger fans, one who has just painted us a real egg above, a British Michelin Starred chef now on board too and Backing the Project, who I met many years ago, we can stand with the great Bouchbold in the kitchens of Pendolis, a citadel in Blistag, and cook up many genius life recipes. I have slogged at Social Media, irritated at Facebook, growled too much, but reached many. But I hope this weekend we can all somehow make a little blue Firecutter fly, cut a doorway into wonderful worlds, and I will try to give it back to you, however I can! Come love a little dragon into life then, and a real publisher, and for all my flaws, I will try to start again:

Here’s the link and hope you support and see what it’s about https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1159695087/dragon-in-the-post

Thank you.

David

The photos are a special created egg sent yesterday by Stephanie Jackson and a still from the animation, labelled Pummrey Farm. Come and Like The Dragon In The Post page at Facebook too and “Join the story, become part of the adventure.”

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KICKSTARTER, DRAGON IN THE POST AND TOPPING YOURSELF ON CAMERA!

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DRAGON IN THE POST

A great and brave start, but the truth of kickstarter and reaching targets, only when any money is drawn down, is much harder while if Dragon In The Post doesn’t build momentum right now, it could easily fail. We are at 26%, which ironically may put people off supporting itself. That would be completely wrong though, not least because the ambition is to go beyond the 6k, open a door on a whole publishing project and bring out Light of The White Bear, Looking For Edmund Shakespeare and many projects together.

Also the received wisdom is ‘no talk of the past‘, a professional video that stays up for the duration and so on. Yet the statistics show that only 73 have watched the video for Dragon In The Post so far, and those that do love it, although the average views only reach 30% of the entire film. As opposed to over 700 that viewed the very personal talks on the Light of The White Bear project, with an average of 50% watched! Is that because people really like the pain of the personal, a sad publishing and private story, and to the shame of those following this publishing blog?! THAT’S YOU! Is it better to weep, top yourself or set fire to the room, than to just engage in the passionate and professional? I hope not, and never surrender, while there is still plenty of time to turn everything around and work some magic. Momentum is vital though.

Be good Phoenix supporters then, come back as backers of Light of The White Bear and both spread the word and BACK THIS PROJECT by CLICKING HERE

Thank you.

PA PRESS

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KICKSTARTER COMES GOOD FOR DRAGON LAUNCH TOMORROW AND THE STREET TEAM GROWS!

Well, at least a very courteous reply from Kickstarter about both a ‘raffle‘ and mooted charity element I put in the project, Dragon In The Post, and the OK to launch too. Tomorrow, April 23rd, so be there, or be square! 18 are already coming to the Facebook chat too on Saturday, 6pm London time, and 10 Maybes, but do come.

I still don’t quite agree that five specially illustrated ‘Invitations‘ hidden in books sent out, like that ‘Golden Ticket‘ in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory can be perceived as a raffle. It was for magic and excitement and offering a reader a chance to work with me or an illustrator on something, after I took out the monetary element of up to £150 of books. There we are. Kickstarter have to abide by Amazon guidelines themselves, which shows why big business is so obsessed with dominating the platforms, and projects can be denied funding even if they hit their targets, if it is considered they have or had breached guidelines. I agree with anti gambling and raffle rules, it’s just I don’t think five special invites and thus unique rewards constitute the Barclay’s Bank libor-rate fixing scandal! It was about art, communication and creativity.

As for the charity element they were sympathetic to the spirit of it, though it was always couched purely in terms of holding a conversation about the future of Phoenix Ark Press, if there is one, but it is something they watch on projects across the board. To quote “Kickstarter is meant as a home for creative projects, and while we definitely understand the desire to be charitable, unfortunately that’s outside of our scope for projects that fund through our site.” That conversation can easily be had elsewhere but it does seem we create a system where the first and sometimes only criteria is money, as the great machine rolls on, mind you it could embroil any crowd funder in all sorts of disputes later.

Also wonderful news yesterday though about reaching potentially 1500 on Deviant Art, via a bookselling friend! Great stuff and even more chance to make a project soar, especially engaging what Sheila Ruth at Imaginator pointed out is often called a Kickstarter ‘Street Team‘. I love that idea, if we are really to crack one book project but also begin to build a grass roots publisher, or if that is even possible, and hope all those who backed Light of The White Bear are part of The Dragon In The Post Street team. Especially some younger backers, who know who they are, and have been so supportive and important.

So let’s kick arse!

DCD

PA PRESS

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