12.45 Greek time. Arrive in Chania Old Town and Check in to Norahs Pension, a cute old, Turkish style, big house, almost completely unrenovated except for the woodwork having been repeatedly painted with many uneven coats of thick blue paint. Each room still has an 1950s style electricity meter on the wall remaining from the days when I guess it was rented as long term letting rooms. Despite being called Norahs it seems to be run by a lugubrious and disillusioned Greek guy whose demeanour suggests he has seen everything life can parade in front of him and found it sadly lacking and that he has recently lost a euro and found a catastrophically devalued Drachma.
I watched him from the balcony as he sat in the cafe opposite across the narrow little back street fingering and tossing his worry beads. Except, heres the rub, he didn’t have any worry beads, he was just going through the motion, doing the fingering in a sort of nervous tic, or, being more positive, a zen, sort of way. I wondered, is there any sight more redolent of the fatuity of life than a lugubrious Greek guy of a certain age fingering non existent worry beads? Or is just that I have been up since 3 am, UK time.
But here’s the good news! What an amazing coincidence! It turns out Jackie Collins was here in the 70s and actually did some writing here! There are some great photos of Jackie in the very same room we are staying in and also enjoying a drink on the balcony overlooking the street. Apparently she liked a drink.
I couldn’t wait to tell Jane about Jackie Collins having hung out at Norahs place, but, to be honest, she seemed somewhat underwhelmed.
She actually went on to say that she had heard enough about Jackie Collins and, further, she resented any direct or implied references to herself in an offensive piece of writing that stank of the worship of consumer capitalism and false class consciousness, and that she loathed its insulting representation of women in general.
A piece of writing, she continued, that was essentially a puerile, smirking, phallocentric, so-called ‘comic’ narrative, that sexually objectified women in one more tired attempt to shore up a patriarchal male hegemonic world view that was no longer tenable.
And with that she strode out of Norah’s and off down the streets of Chania Old Town humming an old Joan Baez song.
(wimmin, yeh. its carnt liv wiv em, carnt liv wiv airt em, innit?, one thinks to oneself at times such as these.)
I watched her go down the narrow old town street from the balcony of Norah’s as she browsed the small boutique jewellery shops and bijouteries, the artisanal bakers, and olive oil shops also selling the pretty nosegays of Cretan herbs. I watched her wander amongst the close, dense homes tumbled one on top of another, smelling the cooking of many meals, hearing the shouted conversation across the looming balconies, all striking a plangent chord in Janes breast. I knew what she would be thinking, because I know the thoughts that surround her, I can get inside her head, yes I can, Yes I can, la la la .
Yes, where do you go to my lovely, when you are alone in your bed?
Well, in Janes case, seeing she was so sniffy about being in a shopping and fucking story, she can go back to Blackburn, or one of those sort of places you read about in Misery Lit. Back, back, back to the packed back to back terraced streets of Northern England where the young Jane had shivered in a damp, unheated, unlit, barely furnished room and wondered if there would be any supper that night.
And, when finally forced out onto the streets through both hunger and boredom she would recognise the familiar parental figure, leaning hunched and broken against the pub wall, cap pulled low, unlit fag end clamped wetly in sunken toothless mouth, waiting in sullen desperation and defeat for the pub to open.
Yes, Janes mother liked a drink, and often spent the food money on pint after pint of dark mild, but, remembered Jane fondly, sometimes returned home in good spirits with quite a few bob after luring an unsuspecting fellow drinker into betting against her in a backyard clog fight, for which she showed a surprising and vicious turn of speed.
Meanwhile, Jane’s father, whom she loved and admired greatly, kept the family together with a combination of hard graft in the mophead factory and working as a rent boy for which he was often paid in tripe, a staple of Janes childhood and a food which for Jane, even years later, and after a degree in English lit as a mature student, could still offer a Proustian experience of times past.
Yes, Jane felt a solidarity with the vendors of the small, bijou, artisanal jewellery shops of old Chania and she loved the little shops selling the cute, small bottles of olive oil and pretty herbs, all selling for very reasonable prices considering that they were artisanal and had such terroir.
‘But, I said to her, isn’t the relationship of these small, tasteful, boutique shop owners to the means of production not that of the proletariat, but that of the bourgeoisie?
‘No, she replied emphatically, The direct relationship of the artisan to the point of sale, demonstrates ownership of the means of production’
At which point I decisively flipped over the olive wood corkscrew with ‘Crete’ burnt into it to reveal the made in China label, still attached.
‘So what, retorted Jane, in case you didn’t know China is a communist country and any way an olive wood corkscrew is a lot more use to the proletariat than a lot of camp, decadent, fascist drivel about Jackie Collins.’ and with that she swept out humming the hook line from the Clash’s White Riot.
Well, one tries writing from a female point of view and one gets a harsh feminist critique, indeed a veritable tongue-lashing for ones pains. Not to worry, tomorrow we go south to Paleo where they ride big motorbikes and shoot up all the road signs. The guy’s are quite tough there as well and maybe a more macho voice might suit me and the locale. Maybe Paleo can help get my cojones back.