Monday, 30 September 2013


Apologies for the lack of updates but the blog has had to take a back seat for a while as I try to make progress on various writing projects. Everything seems a bit up in the air and I seem to have four books in various stages of completion on the go at once! However, I've now made a solemn vow that I will actually complete at least one of them by Christmas. Looking at it another way, it was generally believed in 1914 that the war would be over by Christmas, so I guess that gives me a bit more leeway.

Anyway, I thought I'd take the opportunity to outline the position at the moment. If anyone wants to contact me about any of this, either make a comment or, for more privacy, send a message to my facebook page:


(No this isn't an attempt at the world record for the most boring book title. I'm not revealing the title yet since it's absolutely brilliant and, as there is no copyright on titles, I don't want anyone to nick it!)

This is pretty well completed but still needs polishing. At the moment I'm exploring various options for publication and looking for a few photographs. Can anyone help with the latter (or even the former)? In the meantime, this extract from the Introduction, though still in need of tidying up, will give you a brief taster:

“While I was interviewing people for this book, I met a survivor from the Hoxha years who, although a few years younger than me, shared exactly the same birthday. This coincidence set my mind running on the fact that we had shared many of our teenage years, but with unbelievably different experiences.
For most of my teens, I was a Christian, albeit not very devout but I was certainly free to go to church when I felt like it; Ilia, on the other hand, had to keep all religious activity secret even from his schoolfriends and say his prayers behind locked doors. All I faced for any Christian beliefs was a certain amount of gentle mockery from my schoolmates, whereas Ilia could face ten years in prison for making the sign of the cross. At the same time as I was going on demonstrations against government policy, the only demonstrations allowed in Albania were organized by the government to attack alleged opponents, including clergy.
Although not a brilliant student, I went to university in 1967; at about the same time, Ilia realized that, in spite of being top of his class in nearly every subject, he would have to find some sort of manual work because his father was a priest. Even before university, most of my teachers encouraged me to think for myself and even to criticize their opinions; Ilia, however, had to follow exactly the party line laid down for all subjects and could be punished for omitting to mention Comrade Enver's contribution to the Theory of Relativity!
I could go on for ever describing the contrast in our lives but to put it in a nutshell: as a student of English literature in the 1960s, while I was studying George Orwell's 1984, Ilia was living it.
To see the full extent of the hell that was Albania in the years between 1945 and 1985, read on...”


 (My little 'tourist guide' to Greek Orthodox churches and worship.)

This is now virtually out of print due to the bankruptcy of the publisher so, since it sold steadily if slowly, I've decided to convert it to Kindle and republish. I'm taking the opportunity to correct a few errors and expand it a bit and I believe it's much improved. There is now more information about the most popular religious festivals in Greece as well as a brief section on monasteries. I've nearly completed the revision and am collecting together high quality photos to replace the old ones. Again, anyone who might be able to help with these is welcome to contact me.

Just a brief sample of the style of the book:
“OCHI DAY (28th October) This is not strictly a religious festival, being the anniversary of the declaration of war with Italy in 1940. The Italian government had offered Greece an impossible ultimatum to which the leader Metaxas is reputed to have responded with the simple word “Ochi” (No). However, religious services play a very important part in this Greek equivalent of Remembrance Day. In all towns and villages, a service of remembrance takes place at the war memorial, one minute's silence is observed and wreathes are laid. This is particularly moving because of the involvement of the children as well as military and civic dignitaries. In the cities, of course, there is a military parade but in the smaller towns and villages the parade is composed of children of all ages, looking smart and proud in their white shirts and navy blue trousers or skirts. In places where there is no secondary school, it's only the primary schoolchildren who take part and to watch two kindergarten infants toddle up to the memorial holding a wreath bigger than they are is guaranteed to bring a lump to the throat of the hardest hearted onlooker.
Although a secular celebration, Ochi Day was given a religious dimension in 1952, when the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece moved the date of the important Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God from 1st October to the 28th in recognition of the part played by the Virgin Mary in protecting and inspiring the people of Greece during the bitter years of occupation.


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