Archive for March, 2005

It’s time…

Saturday, March 19th, 2005

… that I came into the open about my fugitive status. I think I’ll leak it out in episodes.

The Making of a Fugitive – Episode One.
I was working as a systems programmer for a large British company, and, as one tends to do, I was browsing the Internet on the side. My mistake was to drill a hole through my company’s firewall. I did not do this to cause harm. Nor did I do it to “see if I could”, because I knew I could, we programmers are arrogant that way. I did it in order to continue to participate in a forum about 1980s video games, a lame interest, you may believe, but one of my interests, nevertheless. If you’ve never played Pacman, Q*Bert or SuperCobra, I can see that you might not appreciate the compelling nature of these entertainments. Your life has been the poorer for it, I assure you.

In its wisdom, and I have to concede they had a point, my company could not perceive a business purpose to visiting the web forum, and they had blocked it. I knew I would not be able to convince them that it was essential to my morale and productivity that I be allowed to continue to indulge in discussions of Skill Levels in Gyruss, so I tweaked the firewall to permit it, just for me.

Some eagle-eyed guardian of the company’s morals spotted my infraction, probably whilst browsing the site himself, operating from the lofty position of firewall manager, and sent me a very sharp email, copy my manager. I expected a harsh word or two, perhaps even a formal warning. Instead, they called in the police and accused me of hacking. I had clearly broken the rules, I freely concede that. But hacking? I don’t think so. Two factors probably played a part in their decision to prosecute. There had been quite a lot of misuse of the company email system around that time – some distinctly off-colour images had appeared on desktop screens – but only the recipients of the mail could be traced, and you can hardly blame a person for receiving an unsolicited pornographic image in the mail. Nevertheless, the company was embarrassed, and they needed to make an example of someone who was monkeying with the company network. Secondly, the company was “downsizing” at the time, and it was handy to find someone you could dismiss forthwith, and not have to compensate. I was that someone.

I held my hand up in court. There was a spot of probation, not a custodial sentence, thank heavens, and I was on the job market. I remained there for eighteen months. It’s hard to get a job when there’s no way the company you’ve worked with for the last fifteen years will give you a reference. Meanwhile, I spent a lot of time on the Internet. I made a lot of friends in games forums. I made one particular friend who lived nearby. Let us call her Melancthe. We met. She was interesting and assertive, fun to be with. We kind of dated. We started by playing video games and graduated to other games.

Unless…

Friday, March 18th, 2005

…you are a fan of Jack Vance, you may be wondering about the name I’ve adopted here. In Vance’s Lyonesse trilogy, there appears a character called Carfilhiot, cruel and arrogant, and really one of the villains of the piece with whom I do not really wish to associate myself. Nevertheless, his name, and that of his ‘twin’ sister, Melancthe, have stuck in my mind for many a long year as really excellent names to use when the occasion arose.

Books are a bit of a problem here. I’ve always been surrounded by hundreds of my books, and buy dozens every year. Here, I’m stuck with the few I brought with me, and some appalling popular fiction stocked for tourists. I’ve been reduced to downloading classics from The Gutenberg Project, and have renewed my acquaintance with Sir Walter Scott, John Buchan and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve also been bathing in nineteenth century poetry – so much more satisfactory than most of the tripe that’s written these days. One of the books I did bring with me was an old Penguin Odyssey, but I haven’t had the urge to read it yet.

Spent the afternoon scraping paint off the boat. Apparently it has to go back to the bare wood for preservation. You’d be amazed how many coats the previous owners slapped on over the years. In places it’s a quarter inch thick!

Another crisp…

Thursday, March 17th, 2005

… and pleasant morning. It hasn’t rained here for absolute ages, though there have been some extremely cold nights which I’ve never really expected in Greece. Some mornings, the sea is warmer than the air.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to help Alexis with the boat. I now find that it’s closer to twenty-five feet in length than the eighteen I told you about. Apparently, we were going to find the extent of leakage in the hull. I had visions of dragging half a ton of used fishing boat into the sea and watching how quickly it sank. And I wondered how we were going to get it ashore again all waterlogged. I needn’t have worried. When I got down there, the boat was still propped up on wooden blocks spread over the sand by the harbour and Alexis had already half-filled the hull with sea water, using a petrol-driven pump. I should have thought of that. Water was squirting out all around, and Alexis was marking the worst holes with dabs of black paint. He handed the paint pot to me and set about the hull with a sharp knife, stabbing it into the wood to find soft bits. Although he gouged out alarmingly large chunks of wood from some rotten areas, these were all localised and nothing important will have to be replaced. As the hull filled, alarming creaks and groans were heard, but nothing bent or broke. As time went on, some of the leaks appeared to heal themselves. I imagine that dry planks tend to shrink, and wetting them can close small gaps. When Alexis was satisfied, we reversed the pump, and when the hull was empty, that was that for the day. Beers at Nikos’.

Eating out…

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

… at Nikos’, let me tell you, is a much more pleasurable experience that it looks from the photo. There’s a menu, of course, because tourists require a menu, but the smart move is to find out what Nikos himself is eating, and order that. Last night, it was pente psaria – five fishes. The fishes in question were the kind of catch one usually throws back – species unknown, about six inches long, silver with flashes of pink. Served complete with head, tail, fins and bones, deep-fried in light batter, I nearly ran for it, but they were fantastic.


For company, I had Alexis, a young man of about twenty-five, clean-shaven, which is unusual round here, lean and muscular. Alexis is going to be working on my boat. Lacking a common language in which we are both fluent, much of the discussion took place by means of pidgin English and German, sign language and diagrams drawn on the paper tablecloth with Nikos’ leaky biro. I think we are both satisfied with these working drawings, which Alexis carefully folded up at the end of the meal. Apparently “we” start work on it tomorrow.

Nikos, burly and grey-haired, came up to me after Alexis left, and, after softening me up with a few Metaxas, cautioned me that Alexis was considered to be a bit too “new” by the fishermen, which I assume means too “modern” in his methods. That seemed like good news to me.

The fishing boat, which I purchased last week, was inexpensive, as boats go. It’s about eighteen feet long and completely devoid of engine, sails, mast, rudder or superstructure. In short, it’s a hull with a few leaks, but optimism runs high, and the leaks don’t show because it’s high and dry right now.

I’m trying not to give the islanders the idea that I am wealthy, but compared with them I obviously am. After all, since I got here in unfashionable December, I have bought my little house and a boat, and I’ve purchased furniture, an old motor bike and eaten out frequently. My status is hovering, I think, between long-stay tourist and future resident. No-one yet suspects that my true status is fugitive. Fugitive, yes. But I don’t think I’ll talk about that right now.

This Morning..

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

… I came to the door of my shack and looked out over the few square yards of my tumbledown-walled estate. My old olive tree leaned towards the sea far below, though the cool air was perfectly still. The sea, stretched out like a vast carpet to the high horizon, was only slightly rippled. From here, no other building is in sight. I might be totally alone. I told myself I had made the right decision in coming to this Greek island, and, for once, I agreed.

There was also the additional frisson as I anticipated starting this journal. I spent most of yesterday setting it all up the way I wanted, doing a few tests, then cleared all the test entries. A clean slate, like a new empty jotter and a sharp pencil, one of my childhood delights.

Of course, it’s now so late, and I have been sharpening my keyboard and licking my lips for more than half an hour before setting finger to key, so there’s no time for more today. I’m eating out tonight.