Start Here…

December 31st, 2004

The Carfilhiot Saga – (a gateway for the three blogs, enabling you to read entries interleaved in sequence.

“Totally Ruined” – Sophia’s (Suldrun’s) blog

Fauxhunter’s website

Oh, and Amazon Harlequin (the group)

Links for all of these are in the Links in the right hand column.

(Bogus date to ensure this entry comes first – actually added August 2006)

This Morning..

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.

Eating out…

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.

Another crisp…

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’.


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!

It’s time…

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.

I can’t …

March 20th, 2005

… leave you hanging.

The Making of a Fugitive – Episode Two
Melancthe worked in the back office of a large commercial bank, in some clerical capacity. I shall refer to it as “The Bank of Lyonesse”. When she heard of my problems in getting another job, she suggested that it would be easy to get into The Lyonesse as a software engineer. “But,” I objected, “I don’t have any references.”

“Leave that to me,” she said, “Write me a true reference for yourself that describes your work and experience without mentioning your employer and I’ll see what I can do. I have contacts.” I did so.

A week later, Melancthe turned up with an application form for her bank, and gave me the name, address, email and telephone number of a referee – let us call him Shimrod – from another major bank. “Shimrod really exists. He’s a friend of mine.” Melancthe told me, “If you nominate him as one referee and they check with him, he will back up your experience. Nominate me as the second referee. It’s easy.”

It was easy. Within a month, I was a trusted member of The Lyonesse’s Wholesale Finance Division, Computing Department. I was deeply grateful to Melancthe, and showed it, so that when she phoned me up one evening I was honour bound to help her. “I’m stuck at work here,” she said, “And my password has stopped working – I think I screwed it up when I changed it this morning. Could you lend me yours so I can get this done? I need to fix this and I don’t want to call in my boss.” I am not a total idiot. I knew this was a rash thing to do, but why should I suspect Melancthe when she’d helped me so much?. I gave her the id and password – a password that was much more powerful than Melancthe’s own, giving access to the deepest recesses of the bank’s servers, and first thing next morning, I changed it. I did more than just change the password. I traced as much as I could of what she had done the previous night, and, you’ve guessed it, sitting in the centre of the bank’s trusted systems was a keystroke logger. Definition for the morbidly curious here.

The article may give you a clue about the possible uses of key loggers.

I did not hesitate. I disabled the logger. Then I wondered who to tell. I wasn’t exactly in a strong position here, as the accomplice of the criminal, a criminal I had used as a referee, who had also arranged another false reference. What’s more, I was a convicted “hacker”. I was pretty sure that if I told the bank, they’d fire me and suppress the whole thing, and then I’d never get another job. So I told no-one. And I didn’t talk to Melancthe.

Of course, I knew Melancthe would know I’d killed her logger, and I really didn’t know how she’d react. I thought she herself was sufficiently vulnerable to be very cautious in pressing the matter. She’d had a go, I’d foiled her. End of story. Stalemate. And no more cosy Pacman sessions together, either.

She arrived at my flat at half past six, hysterical with fear and screaming that I had to help her. The criminal gang she was working for were making threats. She was as good as dead if the logger didn’t work. What did we care if the bank was robbed? Anyway, when it was over we’d both be so rich we could disappear and live a new life together. I couldn’t talk sense to her. She fell asleep still sobbing and begging and I made reassuring noises.

But that is not why I’m a fugitive. The robbery never took place.

I think …

March 21st, 2005

… that’s enough about my background story for now. I’ll pick it up later this week when I’ve got time.

In real life, we’re still scraping paint off this confounded boat. I hope it’s going to be worth it. Still it’s nice to be working in the fresh air, albeit a fresh air tainted with flakes of undoubtedly toxic lead-based paint and various noxious paint-stripping chemicals. Thank heavens for a half gale most of the time. Alexis is really feeling the cold. To me, after England, this is blissful weather.

This stripping of paint is a novelty to the fishermen at the harbour. The traditional method of boat restoration is to stuff the cracks with tarred rope and put another few layers of paint on top.

I met the village “Pope” for the first time yesterday. Stove-pipe hat and black robes. Vast physical bulk, intimidating full beard. He actually sought me out at Nikos’. He speaks good English in a surprisingly high voice, and I realised that he reminded me of Demis Roussos – now I’m showing my age. His manner was courteous and confident. Fortunately, he did not want to discuss theology with me, but rather to propose his niece, Eleni, to clean my house and do my laundry. I had mentioned the cleaning problem to Nikos last week. Pope Soutsos negotiated her hours and pay in a very businesslike fashion, and we sealed the deal in lemonade. There’s a relief. Now all I need is a gardener. So far I’ve only had the offer of a hungry donkey. And this is why.

A view of my house

This is a very merciful photograph of my house. It conveys a certain charm without revealing the festoons of cable and plastic piping that supply me with electricity, telephone and water. The interior will soon be fit to visit if Eleni does her job. It’s primitive, but I am very happy here. Incidentally, the photo is from the estate agent’s details. It’s actually a lot greener now than it was when the photo was taken.

There’s a …

March 22nd, 2005

… spot of scandal in today’s journal. Nikos confided to me that my prospective maid Eleni is an unmarried mother, and the father was an unidentified tourist. Apparently no-one refers to it. Eleni’s mother (the sister of Pope Soutsos) looks after the baby. Of course, this being Greece, the fact that I was informed ‘confidentially’ and that no-one refers to it means that absolutely everyone knows. In England, unmarried motherhood is very common. In Greece, only 4% of babies are illegitimate, and one suspects that in the islands and small village communities, the incidence is even lower.

The boat is now almost back to the raw wood on the outside of the hull. There’s just the tricky bits still to do. I really thought we were nearly finished with this, but Alexis insists that we have to strip the paint off the inside, too! I really wonder if I need a boat this much, or whether I should go out and buy a rubber dinghy if I want to mess about in boats, but I can’t let Alexis down. I am his only customer right now, and I’m learning a bit of Greek from him while we merrily scrape away. It’s much better than what I was recently doing in Glasgow – data checking – yechh! Even fumes of stripper and blowlamp are better fare than that. Some sections of paint just come straight off in a long streamer that wraps around your arm and permanently colours your clothes. Others require considerable force and dedication to even chip them, and barked knuckles are the norm. With all this fresh air and sun, I’m beginning to get a nice tan, so that’s something.

Looking forward to Nikos’ Chicken in Lemon tonight. My appetite can’t wait. I’m all washed and changed. In a minute, I shall get on my little motor bike and freewheel down to the village, which is a couple of miles down the hill, and pass the time with an Ouzo or two. Bliss.

I’m afraid I …

March 24th, 2005

… missed my journal yesterday. When I got home after more boat-scraping, Eleni had obviously been and done her stuff. No-one locks their doors around here, but I lock my laptop up in a little cupboard when I’m out. Nearly every piece of clothing I possess had been confiscated, and I had some difficulty finding something to wear for the evening. Strangely, every single electrical socket in the house was switched off and had a plug in it. It seems to be a case of “Thurber’s Aunt” an affliction in which the sufferer worries about electricity leaking all over the house if the sockets are not filled. When I tried to use the gas cooker later, I discovered that the supply valve had been closed. Still, the house was spotless – some of the floors were still wet – and there were a few wild flowers in a tumbler on the bedroom window sill. My books had been carefully lined up in size order on the bookshelf. It took me a while to discover that even the book from my bedside had been tidied back. My shoes had been cleaned, for heaven’s sake, and there was a welcome odour of cleaning materials to replace the stuffy atmosphere I’ve been accumulating all year. I don’t know if I’m going to be equal to the task of living up to such diligence.

Today, the end of the paint stripping. Alexis doesn’t need me tomorrow. I can’t say I’m sorry. He says he’s going to start using the epoxy potions to seal the hull. I looked up the products on the internet, and at last I understand. Apparently, the seams and holes are sealed with various epoxy pastes, the outside of the hull is sealed with epoxy and then painted with epoxy paint, so that the timbers are no longer constantly waterlogged in use. The inside, however, is painted with a “breathing” substance, which means that the wood can dry out. I keep meaning to show a photo of the boat. Sorry.