Moving Day -9


Actually more like 7 days since the Nomad van arrives next Monday. Still feeling quite panicky, as you can imagine. Impossible to treat the task as if this was someone else’s house, someone else’s ‘stuff’.

One of the challenges of the basement (from Hell) has been wading through masses of old programme research, schedules, edit notes and scripts, especially the animal films – sharks, sea lions, white tailed eagles, and of course, chimpanzees. In making the Horizon film, Chimp Talk, I was processing many of the ideas that were the subject of my academic work – the relationship between thought (cognition) and language. Unlike my never-to materialise thesis, the TV medium forces a conclusion. The appeal of TV for me was all about the necessity to do, to make the decisions, to get the material ‘out there’. Left to myself, I could see that I would wade around in the knowledge swamp for ever.

I won’t go into the rabbit hole of Chimp Talk, but enough to say it looked at the various attempts to teach a form of language to chimpanzees, and what the results might mean. For me, an amazing opportunity to immerse myself in this research and to have the privilege of meeting these amazing animals and some of the people who literally dedicated their lives to working with them.

More about the chimp research

I am also fascinated by my very physical and ‘analogue’ approach to the films and the edit.

All the research notes mostly handwritten in ink or latterly bashed out on a variety of devices. But the edit notes – script and transcript folders with flags, often on 2 axes, tops of the pages as well as the open edge (is there a word for this?). Colour coded flags, colour coded pens, all helping me to navigate through hours of material, bringing it down to the TV hour or half hour. I can’t help wondering whether the methods of e woking don’t result in a different product? One of my schedules had a quote from Picasso, something about if you know the outcome, what’s the point in doing the work. My reluctance for pre-scripting had at least three executive producers tearing out there hair and shutting me out of the cutting room, only to let me back in when they realised it was the only way to get the programme on the air.

A heartfelt thanks here to Sally Anne Wilson and Charlie Foley who stuck with me throughout the film that became Beyond the Jaws (or Shark Psychologists if you saw the American version).

Today’s music – chosen for it’s vintage and the feeling of a life ahead. I think that it was actually Clouds that came out when I was 21 and living in Oregon, experiencing the first taste of the outdoors, and the research life. But this isn’t a memoir, now is it?

Next: the attic – going further back in time…

Thank Heaven for Little Gulls

Moving Day – 11 -10 -9

Somehow the more we sort out the stuff, and give / sell / donate /recycle there seems to be more clutter everyday. We can’t go upstairs without passing piles of books! There’s a ladder and a large pile of VHSs on the top landing, and everywhere I look there’s a huge task waiting to be done.

For the last few years, every year, we have seen a pair of gulls, the same pair, I am sure, arriving in late December, hanging out together in January, and getting closer and more bonded through the spring, repairing the previous year’s nest, always in the same place, a messy construction on the roof of the industrial unit at the back of our house (soon to be not our house). For the last few years, at least three, (not counting last year when we weren’t here) they have raised 3 chicks to noisy fledging around August / September. This is a pretty amazing achievement and I think they could only have done it because they were a well-established, mature and practised couple, able to protect and feed the brood. Herring gulls have a lifespan of 10-20 years (one source says up to 50!) and it may be that these two were reaching retirement age. I am no longer sure how long I have been watching them from my desk, or the bath.

This year has been different. As I watched them, I noticed something different, hard to put my finger on it to begin with. Just after we arrived back at the end of May there was definitely something going on in the nest, and somewhere back in the Blog, there’s a pic of a small chick on the roof. I have seen two chicks only once, but the parental scene has changed too. In previous years both parents have hung out near the nest and the growing chicks often trotted around on our side of the roof, learning to hop over the ridges and exploring the gutters. We also saw quite a lot of feeding going on, chicks begging from the parents, even late into the year bustling along behind a bored looking parent making themselves small and squeaking. This year things have been quite different, with only one gull at the nest, and now only rare sightings of one chick. It’s looking very like a single parent family. Of course we can’t tell if we are seeing a male or a female, since both parents usually do the feeding.

I feel sad to see this brave urban partnership ending, although, as we know, all things must pass.

At this time of year we wake up to the sound of gulls gossiping, chatting, telling off the kids, making much smaller and more varied noises that the raucous seaside squawk that people associate with this fearsome, beautiful animal. Yes, I will miss them.

Zen and the Art of Susie Cooper


Having counted up to the 14 day s of quarantine, we are now counting down to our first removal day, 28 June. That’s 12 days from now, so that’s why I feel physically anxious. Short nights as Midsummer approaches don’t help with this, and there is a lot of time pressure on blog writing and yoga practice. Also taking a little time to see the friends that I haven’t seen ‘in the flesh’ for almost a year and a half.

I am afraid I am still wrestling with my books. This is a really visceral struggle, and I can’t seem to develop a grounded position from which to make proper judgements. This morning I looked at the shelves and saw this book:

Now, I know that this book was influential in my life, but how? Why? Now I am intrigued. I open it up at random, and here we are. It’s an American road trip, combined with elements of philosophy.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has become the best-selling philosophy book of all time.

Aha! Now there’s a reference to The Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám. We were introduced to this in the 6th form in ‘Cultural Studies’ and a seed planted in the fertile mind of a 17 year old is bound to take root. This is not even my original copy, a bootlegged hardback copy with thin paper and a mostly green cover. My current copy was bought at a charity shop for £1.50. I could replace it for 20$. There is a fascination in dipping into this river and maybe finding a rock that seems entirely familiar, but perhaps the trees behind it are much taller, or have disappeared or an entire housing development has been built, or maybe it just stands out as a mental landmark with perfect clarity.

And Susie Cooper?

You wouldn’t think that we would be buying anything, when the main task is to persuade stuff to leave the building. There are a couple of exceptions. Al has bought ANOTHER guitar (don’t ask how many that makes!). I have say, it’s a very pretty black and cream electric, an Epiphone version of the Gibson played by Jimmy Page on Whole Lotta Love.

And Susie? I had never heard of Clarice Cliff or Susie Cooper until I made a short piece for ‘Craven’s Collectibles’ for Anglia TV (yes, laugh away but those gigs paid the rent and I learnt lots about collecting and collectors.) Our crockery is mainly about Ikea plates and glasses, now all the £1-a-plate blue edge Habitat has all found its way into flower pots. So what’s the point of carting it to Crete? I am going to try buying a very few Susie Cooper pieces that we can enjoy eating from until we break them or wear off the designs in the dishwasher. Yes, life is for living and things for enjoying.

END MUSIC – just for the energy

Quarantine Day 14

Last day of quarantine was Saturday. Now we can go out into the world tomorrow, I rather feel as though my shell is being peeled away. Of course, the house move is scary, as our new shell has not grown yet. A lot of decisions, paperwork, legwork etc etc to do in the next 2 weeks, so I won’t necessarily be writing a daily blog, although it is helpful to sit down at the keyboard and feel that this time can be shared a bit. Some of you respond as if it is a personal email, which of course it is. I think of you out there reading this, and appreciate your reactions. After all, you are my friends: the group that I have made for blog posts is called ‘Friends of Snork Maiden’.

Actually, I am finding Tove Jansson helpful in this rather stressful time, as I try to find my courage.

Music Links

There is always a music link somewhere in the blog, but maybe not always obvious. Sometimes the illustrations have links, usually they appear below the title. Best, if you can, choose to open them in a separate tab so you can listen and read simultaneously.

Quarantine Day 12/13


Unusually writing this in a post lunch torpor. Also listening to Indie Sage to get the most detail and best discussions around the issue of Covid-19. Recommended.

I am also slightly miffed that it’s quite hard to remember yesterday, in particular. Oh yes, Chitra and Tom brought our /their car back. So we got to see actual human beings on our front path, and had an actual conversation with people other than each other. Very welcome.


Always easier to write this in the morning!

Yesterday was VHS tapes and finishing clothes. I know, you are asking ‘why keep VHS tapes, are they crazy?’ Well, maybe. The hard thing to reconcile is how happy I have felt in Crete, without the baggage of my past, my overstuffed wardrobe, the books I don’t have time to read, but can’t quite manage to leave them behind. But it doesn’t seem right to shake off the past so thoroughly on a more permanent basis.

Back to the VHS problem.

These tapes represent the best part of 3 decades work in the TV industry for me, and many of these overlap with Al’s scores. Of course he also has his own stack, larger than mine. So why? One of the attractions that factual TV had for me was that it offered constant opportunities to move on from topic to topic. I stated with space (Is Anybody There? 1976), went through a re-evaluation of current affairs programming, (The Friday Alternative, Diverse Reports) finishing up with big sharks (Beyond the Jaws etc). Lots of other rent-paying stuff in between and a Horizon about Chimps and Language – the film I always wanted to make. Generally, I have avoided watching any of the programmes after they went to air. A couple of times I went to the BFI archive in London to view a couple of films made at Diverse Productions. So why now? Maybe I feel that this very rich part of my life needs some processing. I am really not sure. Oh no! Am I heading for a memoir?

Clothes: I am supposed to value my clothes for insurance purposes. That lead me to reflect on how many I have. Too many for sure. I have lived with a restricted wardrobe in Crete, but never lacked an outfit. OK I bought a couple of T shirts and one or two other items from the UK but there will be an end to that. A few years ago I decided not to buy anything new for a year, and that worked well, encouraging me to investigate what I already have. Part of the problem is that clothes encourage a kind of fantasy life. I could be a dominatrix, a vicar’s wife, I could sail around the world. You get the idea. My current wardrobe mostly reflects things I will actually wear, apart from a dark fuschia ‘cocktail dress’ that belongs in a 1960s B feature. So I have my lifetime supply of T-shirts and probably more than a lifetime’s supply

of yoga kit. A decade’s worth of jeans. Enough black merinos to get me through any number of Cretan winters so long as the moths don’t follow us.

Al is easy with a good collection of mainly second hand red label Levis culled from eBay, and a pretty good supply of seemingly indestructible black T shirts.

How are we feeling? Thanks to Tove Jansson for this thought:

Quarantine Day 11/14

So Tired!

Oh dear. Really not enough sleep. It’s 0715 and we’ve been up for 2 hours without much happening except 2 cups of tea, recycling (several years Sound on Sound mags), veg delivery from Riverford. I can’t quite understanding what is happening with food.

Grocer Jack

So far we have been back for just over 2 weeks, and have had 3 Waitrose deliveries with another one due this morning. Also 3 Riverford deliveries. And the fridge still seems a bit empty. In Crete I shopped for the week every Tuesday, first the greengrocer where I would spend around 30 Euros (pronounced Evro, in case you ever need to know that). Then the supermarket for everything else. Average spend here around 100 (I can’t even find Euro on my keyboard this morning.). I haven’t quite worked out the UK bills but it feels like more.

I have a ZOOM yoga class at 0800 so short blog today. Maybe I will write about that tomorrow.

Why Day11? Oh because we, along with a lot of other people, haven’t received test results. Omnishambles doesn’t even cover it. So we will complete 14 days. Actually Quarantine or not doesn’t feel very different. More about that on Day 15 perhaps!

Quarantine Day 10

What Took You So Long?

Yesterday evening, a fun Zoom with Tom, who was on the line to his car insurers to add us as additional drivers: our car now on semi-permanent loan to our friends Tom and Chitra. After his first attempt fell at the fence of not knowing any personal information about us (and why should he?), and since we can’t be in a room together, Zoom felt like an ideal solution. It was quite delightfully domestic, with me cooking a dal in between shouting dates of birth, mother’s names, number of cats owned etc. Also a glimpse of Chitra as she came through from her yoga practice on her way to the kitchen. Zoom has provided this window into people’s lives, as well as a continuity with work, yoga, Greek classes. What would the past year have been like without it? How was it for the old and/or technophobic? Or people without the resources to get the technology, or even the room to house it?

I digress. The outcome of the kitchen / insurance Zoom was an outstanding success. AL and I are both able to legally drive the Citroen. On the LEFT. On the LEFT. On the LEFT. I didn’t even have to produce my Greek driving licence. (Actually looks pretty much like the old UK one – pretty pink with a European flag in one corner, only inside the circle of yellow stars it says GR, not GB.)

In the course of our chat, Tom asked what was taking so long with our packing. We’ve been back 10 days and not a single box packed. Well, if you put it like that…. What have we been doing?

Al has finished his tracks for Universal – Life in the Sun. (Watch this space – I will link to them when they are officially released. ). I have dealt with various bits of paperwork, explored what’s in the loft, prepared around 20 meals, written 10 blogs, done one Greek lesson and tried to sustain my yoga practice. Also been through all books (except the boxes in the loft), and I am more than half way through sorting our clothes.

I have been trying to think about previous house moves. They have all been so different. London to Bristol was a DIY move using a transit van with a tail lift. I drove the van, Al drove our car to Bristol. Then he hurt his back and we had to hire a man without a van to help unload! We left shelves and a bed back in London, and we were living in a 1- bed flat, so not much to that one.

Moving out of my amazing place in Shepherd’s Bush in 1987 – also DIY with possessions dispersed to my parents and friends as I prepared to go out to Kiwi Star in Yugoslavia (the island of Krk, now in Croatia).

This time it’s complex. We are not simply moving down the road into another house. And we are moving Al’s studio gear and a lot of musical instruments. Immediately the bulk of what we have will go into storage in Peterborough; we will take what we need for a temporary studio, yoga props etc. to Hereford, where we will stay in my cousin’s house for a couple of months. (She died in April, leaving me as co-executor, so some work to do there).

If we were just moving down the road, I guess we would just get the whole lot into boxes and ask Pickfords to cart it away to its new home. Isn’t that what people do? But this move is a whole big change, coloured by the experience of living for more than a year with out any of this stuff. So part of me just wants to walk out of the door and leave it all behind.

Add to this the general feeling of uncertainty which the pandemic has brought. Also the feeling that the world has been pushed over a threshold of overdue change, not knowing yet what those changes will be.

Stephanie Quirk

One of my wise yoga teachers is teaching on the theme of Grief this week. (It’s not all about strength and flexibility. Or maybe it is.) She talks about suffering loss, as we all have, putting us in a time when we can neither go back, nor forward into the future. We are suffering a mild version of grief mixed with anticipation.

On the Road Again

Covid-19: Day 10

No test results, even for Day 2. Checking #eurofins we discover that we are not the only ones. So we are now supposed to extend quarantine to 14 days.

Quaratine Day 9

Quarantine Day 9

Books and Midsummer

Perfect summer morning here. The 52º N Latitude really makes a difference after the 35º of Marediana. The nights really noticeably shorter, we are waking well before 5am and it is already light. Curtains? I really don’t like shutting the light out. It feels more natural to let the body cope with seasonality and geography. Of course in Crete we are also 23º East, not so much an astronomical difference as a cultural one. So there is something unique about every Lat and Long on earth. This morning is undeniably sweet for not being cloudy or rainy, given that we are where we are. I am grateful for the summer weather and being able to treat our tiny garden as an outside space while wrestling with the sifting of belongings etc. Segue to:

Yes, back to books. Not just books, it’s DVDs and VHSs too (only our own films, I swear). I belong to the FT Books Cafe on FB and I asked that group for help in developing an algorithm for keep / lose. I suppose predictably they leapt into the keep camp, almost to a person. But here’s my dilemma, the books played a big part in making me who I am, but now I am who I am, do I need to be reminded of the process? I have changed; my interests have shifted, and as we can’t dip into the same river twice, I cannot re-visit the pool in which I was baptised. Sorry about the complex image, but I am really struggling with this. In my current yoga study and practice, the stress is definitely on the NOW. Difficult enough to perceive the moment, let alone the thread of moments that lead to this place. So if I followed this thought to its logical conclusion, I would divest myself of all my psychology and feminist books.

Of course they carry a lot of nostalgia, taking me back through the past in a surprisingly visceral way. Is that a good reason to keep them?

Song Link

Now the counterargument: I can open almost any of those influential books – an example, Winnicott’s THE PIGGLE – and read a couple of pages.

Out jump associations, place, time, ideas, threads….

Realistically, my thin trickle of a lifetime is nowhere near enough to float this ship of desire to immerse, to know, to envisage, let alone to work with this flood of material.

Fiction is proving a bit easier, you will be glad to know. I will keep a few personal classics that I might read on the beach or in my future shady garden hammock.

Maybe I am working toward a solution. I will confer with Al, as he says that books are an excellent way of improving a room’s acoustics.

Covid-19 test done on the morning of Day 9 and posted. Complete failure to log in to Eurofins website so who knows where in the ether those results will go.

Quarantine Day 8

Monday Monday

Second test today, and still no result from the first one. This is worse than we expected. We are called every day by the NHS team of mostly bored young people who mainly garble a script that requires 3 or 4 ‘yes’ responses. I can’t blame them, they must be reading that same script over 100 times a day. There’s no effort to make sure that the respondents really are at home, keeping the quarantine rule. The first day Al answered my call. He knew I was doing Yoga practice, so he just said ‘She’s not available.’ OK, said the person at the other end, I’ll call tomorrow. Three times now we have asked for guidance over what we should do if our test results are not returned. We have had 3 different answers, only one of which is correct according to the Gov. Website. (Call 119 – they may supply another test, but that is not clear. Otherwise complete 14 days quarantine.). Actually, I wouldn’t mind that too much, but I need to start shifting quantities of ‘stuff’ out to the dump. And there are another 42 boxes of ‘stuff’ in our storage unit. Why? How? This is a lesson I am going to take into my future life. Two swimsuits are enough, or perhaps one too many.

I asked FB group FT Books Cafe for advice on how to deal with my hundreds of books and received over 40 mostly very helpful and supportive replies. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Final thought about testing.

I think there’s a saying – ‘a camel is a horse designed by a committee’. Well, in the case of track and trace, the committee was deaf and wearing a blindfold. And maybe had its feet tied together. Oh and if you really want a hollow laugh, try this:

Quarantine Day 7

Yesterday was Stuff…. And now the Nonsense

Today’s Track

It is a real experience sorting through the 20 year build up of, well, stuff. We are lucky that in Bristol we have a willing Gumtree and Freecycle audience. The odd thing is that whereas the deluge of ‘stuff’ ( I am still working my way through the smaller of our 2 basement rooms) makes me feel sort of claustrophobic and nauseous, it has also made me realise that one of the things I may miss most in Crete is shopping. Ridiculous, I know, especially in the light of the above. I suppose it was so easy, say, before driving down to Snork Maiden in France, to do the rounds of Screwfix and Force 4 etc. to pick up the items on the list, to say nothing of Amazon etc. delivering g to our door. Of course, there was also the clothes shopping – Uniqlo, Rapanui, Lucy & Yak all favourites. But here’s the thing. Actually I haven’t missed it at all in the last 15 months. I think it’s the exposure to goods that is awakening the cravings, a bit like an alcoholic or chocoholic encountering temptation after being in rehab. Of course, Crete has shops, it even has mail order, but lockdowns put paid to the first, and a lack of facility with internet Greek, the second.

Prior to Brexit, there was a solution. A removal / delivery company, Nomad, would take delivery at their Northampton warehouse and transport small mixed loads to Crete at fairly regular intervals. Very handy for those who can’t do without tea, Marmite and Bath Oliver biscuits. Or another music instrument or yoga chair from home ! Brexit has put paid to that route, at least for the food items (including tea).

Tomorrow, Day 8 test. Still no results from Day 2. World beating Test and Trace. Really?

Stuff and Nonsense

Quarantine Day 5

Stuff alternative version

So now beginning to come to grips with the serious business of sorting out what we take with us, and what really doesn’t belong in our lives any more.

Choosing a track, I realised that the ‘favourite things’ are almost all experiences and not ‘things’ at all. Whiskers on a kitten are a ‘thing’ in the sense that they have a physical existence but the lyrics refer, I think, the sheer pleasure that the cute whiskery face gives us (well, maybe quite a lot of us, anyway). So that will guide my choices. There are stones that bring back the memory of a particular beach, or day, so they can come. Same with clothes – I might not have worn them for a long time but something about the context seems precious. Things like electric carving knives and spare freezers don’t present quite the same challenge. eBay, Gumtree and Freecycle are all going to be working hard. I would sell on Amazon but I seem to have dropped off their seller list. Anyone want a 1986 edition of Understanding Rigs and Rigging?

Sean Leslie? It is part of my original sailing library. Very technical and I have to admit that it has never been of much practical use. Of course I don’t want to part with it. Who knows I might be a boat builder in another life…. Oh, now you see the problem! Also, I can weep in a library, frustrated by the pressure of all the ‘things’ I will never know. So I fear that a lot of books will be coming.

Why would anyone take broken crockery several thousand miles?

W-e-l-l, because every fragment belongs to a something that had an identity, a place, a feeling attached. The original idea was to make a mosaic that would reflect our time here, and I might give that a go in Crete when we finally get settled.

Covid test news – we are actually in Day 6, since I have fallen a day behind with the blog. Our tests were posted on Day 2. Royal Mail’s website assured us that there would be a Sunday collection on Bank Holiday Monday, so even if they weren’t collected until Tuesday, the lab results should have been out by today. Glad we didn’t go for the early release option. At least we received the tests we paid for apparently many people didn’t. Another own goal for the private health care sector in the UK. How much are Tory pals trousering this time?

Quarantine Day 4

Quarantine Day 4

It’s Wednesday

So here we are at mid-week. Feeling more positive today – there’s still a mountain to climb in terms of de-clutter, but at least I have started to do it in my head. Or do I mean ‘do in my head’?

This morning the weather was nice enough to do my Greek revision class in the garden. Not just pleasant to be outdoors, but also gave Al the acoustic freedom to record some new parts for LIFE IN THE SUN. Went through some sale/removal related emails. Discovered that we had complicated matters when Al bought the house by putting in place an arrangement that meant he couldn’t sell it effectively without my consent. Removing this restraint turns out to be not the simple matter that you might think. If you have a similar arrangement, you might think about sorting it out before you sell. I can remember the time when people did their own conveyancing. Feverish trips to the photocopier, the post box, clutching a copy of the Which! Guide to DIY conveyancing. Does any of that sound familiar?

Al’s birthday on Friday so spent a long time scrabbling around the internet trying to find an organic rose wine that would arrive in time. (It’s OK, it’s not a secret!).

We are still under ‘house arrest’. Actually I don’t mind much. Since living in Marediana and going through 2 ‘lockdowns’ there, I think I have become used to being inside the house and its immediate environment. Although, I always looked a little longingly at the ferry leaving and made a wish that one day we will be on that ferry heading for new islands.

Of course our house here is very different from Marediana where we had 2 terraces, a swimming pool and a sea view. Here we have the views you have already seen (previous quarantine Blog), a small garden front and back. Actually it is a small joy to walk down the front path to the gate – a distance of less than 3 metres, check out the rocket growing wild in pots, pull out a few weedlings, look up and down the street and then go back inside.

We are having broadband Issues just now, so I will launch this Blog later today.

Quarantine Day 3

Ruby Tuesday

Oh, a bit melancholy today! Maybe a come down from upbeat birthday mood. Quit a lot of time spent in in front of computers, upstairs, downstairs…. Lots of exercise in a 3 floor house, 4, counting the basement.

On the plus side, the gulls that nest on the roof of the industrial units at the back of the house have again managed to hatch chicks! So far we have only seen these two. In previous years they have had three, which must have meant a lot of heavy lifting for the parents. So below is the view from my eyrie at the top of the house.

Also Clifton Wood.

Looking the other way – here is my de-cluttered notice board. Those of you who have seen my room will know just what a departure this is. Usually several layers deep.

Yesterday also held a couple of Zooms. A fairly predictable conversation with our very lovely financial advisor. She’s sort of down to earth, very English, in a way I can’t really describe, except to say she looks as though she would be happy in green wellies, walking a Labrador or a red setter. We discover she has a robust attitude to over-cooked holiday lets with inflated prices, preferring trailer parks in quietly beautiful coastal areas. We find this re-assuring. For the rest, it’s the usual lecture on risk, terms and the appallingly low interest rates on savings accounts. I suppose the last time I did this ‘sell up and go’ thing, I happily stuffed the proceeds of the sale in the bank, eschewed pension funds and financial instruments and enjoyed the double figure interest rates, and the feeling of freedom that came with it. (The story of Kiwistar and Barcelona, but that’s not for here.)

Of course this blog is not really about quarantine, it’s about the tectonic plates of our lives shifting as we make the transition from Bristol to Crete. Quarantine tends to focus the mind, without the option of being able to run away to the library or a coffee shop.