Category Archive: Excerpts

Excerpt from the book “African Nights”

… Horny Goat Weed

While travelling in South Africa, we passed through a village that was selling large carved cockerels. Well, in South Africa every roadside has people selling carvings, hats and almost everything, but I had not seen any other place were they were selling cockerels.

I asked the guide why they were selling cockerels in this particular village.

“That’s because of Rasputin,” he said.

“Who was Rasputin?” I asked.

“Well,” said our guide, “there was this farmer, and his old cockerel was getting very old and could not service the hens any more. So the farmer went to the local market to buy a new cockerel.

“I need a new cockerel because mine is too old,” he said when he found the trader.

“I only have three cockerels at the moment. Come and look and take your pick,” the trader said.

So the farmer went into the enclosure and saw three cockerels. The first cockerel was a big blue/black chap who looked very proud and was strutting around the pen. His name is King. The second cockerel was a glossy red colour and looked very haughty and powerful his name was Nero. The third cockerel was a brown, skinny, very tatty and moth eaten looking creature that pecked away at the weeds in the corner of the pen his name was Rasputin.

Farmer Jones looked at the three cockerels and decided to take King, as he looked like a proud strong chap.

So the farmer paid the trader, took King home and put him in with the chickens.

King’s pecker came up and he dashed around the hen house giving all the hens a good seeing to. Then he promptly dropped dead.

‘That’s no good’ thought the farmer. ‘He goes once around the hens and drops dead. He must have had a weak heart.’

The following morning, he took the dead King back to the trader and explained what had happened.

“Well,” says the trader, “I am sorry. You had better take one of the other cockerels in exchange.”

So the farmer again went into the pen and looked at the two remaining cockerels. He looked at Nero and thought he looked strong and powerful.

“I will take Nero,” he told the trader.

So he took Nero back to the farm and put him in with the hens.

Nero’s pecker came up and he dashed into the hen house. But he ran straight past all the hens and ran up to the old cockerel and started giving him a good old seeing to. Nero showed no interest in the hens. ‘Well that’s no good,’ thought the farmer ‘he must be a gay cockerel.’

The next morning the farmer took Nero back to the trader and explained what had happened.

“Well I’ll be,” said the trader. “You had better bring him back and I will exchange him. But I only have Rasputin left.”

The farmer went into the pen and looked at Rasputin, still nibbling away at the weeds in the corner of the pen. He still looked skinny and tatty but the farmer thought, ‘well he is the only one left and he can only be any better that the last two,’ so he decided to take him.

So he took Rasputin back to the farm and put him in with the hens. Rasputin’s pecker came up and he dashed into the hen house and gave every one of those hens the best time they had had in a very long time.

Loud clucks and grunts emitted from the pen and after about an hour there were a lot of hens lying around with their feet in the air, looking exhausted.

But Rasputin barely looked winded. His head came up and looked around and saw that over the fence were the farmer’s free range pigs. Over the fence he jumped and started to have sex with the pigs. Well, there was squeaking and squealing and to cut a long story short, those pigs had never had such a good time, even when the farmer would bring the old boar around once a twice a year.

At the end of an hour, the pigs were all lying on the ground with contented sighs. But Rasputin hardly looked exerted; he put his head up and sniffed the air and started looking around again.

Just down the lane was farmer Smutz’s prize dairy farm and off went Rasputin in that direction.

Farmer Jones followed but by the time he reached farmer Smutz’s farm, Rasputin had found the cows in the barn, and there was a mowing and a lowing and all sorts of havoc going on. Daisy, Clover and Dandelion had never had such a good time. Farmer Jones arrives and farmer Smuts was absolutely furious.

“Some bloody cockerel has just come in and ravished all my prize cows.”

“Where did he go?” asked farmer Jones.

“He went off over that way towards old Farmer Burton’s ostrich farm,” said farmer Smuts.

“Oh no,” said farmer Jones, as he rushed off down the road.

He heard the commotion long before he reached farmer Burton’s ostrich farm. There was all sorts of hullabaloo going on and he could hear an outraged farmer Burton shouting and yelling.

By the time farmer Jones reached the ostrich farm there was no sign of Rasputin.

“Where did he go?” farmer Jones spluttered.

“That darn cockerel, he ran off towards the water hole,” replied farmer Burton between gasps of fury.

Off went Farmer Jones towards the water hole, where he saw Rasputin lying on the ground. ‘He must be dead from exhaustion,’ thought the farmer. ‘Well he was a game old bird. I can’t just leave him there to be eaten by hyenas I’ll take him home and give him a decent burial.’

Farmer Jones started off towards Rasputin, but as he got nearer he heard him s you of the corner of his beak: “Go away; the vultures will be down in minute.”

The next day farmer went to see the trader and told him what had happened.

“What did your feed him on?” asked farmer Jones.

“We never fed him,” replied the trader, “he just ate the weeds in the corner of the pen.”

“What do you call those weeds?” farmer Jones asked.

“Horny Goat Weed,” replied the trader.


Excerpt from book “Yes and Pigs might Fly”

In the village at the side of the square near the graveyard stood the old school house, there was a gnarled old olive tree which had always been known as the lovers’ tree’.

One day Janis was talking to the twins as they were playing under the old olive tree in the square one afternoon.

“Come pedthia, come here children,” he called offering them some hiro carpo, nuts, and dried fruit that he had just received from his nephew in Kalambaka. “Do you know how the old olive tree became known as the lovers’ tree,” he asked the twins.

“No Great Gramps,” they replied in unison.

“Do tell us,” said James, jumping to try to touch a branch of the tree.

“Yes great granddad, please do tell,” said Jeana scrambling onto his lap.

“Do you see that the branches of this tree are curled and entwined around each other?”

“Yes,” said James.

Gazing up in to the branches of the old tree and then making himself comfortable on the grass leaning and against his great granddad’s legs.

“They are bent and twisted, inseparable, but lovingly so, like an embrace. Children play under this old tree, but often they become subdued, less boisterous. Their games more gentle more sensitive – boys less rough with each other and kinder to the village girls and less likely to pinch and tease, more likely to try and snatch a kiss?”

“Yuck,” said James. “Who would want to steal a kiss from a girl?”

“In time you will,” replied Janis laughing down as the children sprawled on the grass next to him. “Very young children do not like this place or if they go there they are inclined to be restless or gripy. But after awhile they will sleep, but soft moans and sighs will punctuate their rest. They would awaken reaching for their mothers, restless and grumpy and needing reassurance. The elderly kept away from this place, it made them restless and uncomfortable and awakened long lost feelings from their youth.”

“But you like it here great granddad?” said Jeana.

“Yes child I like it here… But do let me get on with the story,” he said.

“Sorry. Please continue,” she said politely.

“In the evening lovers will meet here and many a stolen embrace has taken place and illicit love affair blossomed under the branches of the old olive tree.”

The children laughed and Janis glared down at them. But his glare changed to a smile of affection as he continued with the story. “The lover’s tree they call it, but not because lovers meet there, but because it was named after two sad lovers many years ago.

Diana was the beautiful young daughter of the taverna owner, rich and proud he was, vain and austere, harsh with his daughter. Diana was a good girl who wanted to please her father. Her mother had passed away a long time ago. For many years Diana had not understood that. Passed? Passed what?”

“It means dead like Great Uncle Frederick, he died last year, mummy said he had passed,” James said.

“Yes that’s right,” Janis said.

“Well Diana could not reason why her mother had passed her by. All the other children had a mother and a father, she had only a father. Who she loved dearly, but he was often very remote and strict with her. If Diana asked about her mother he would clam up and refuse to talk. Then more often than not he would drink a lot of beer with the men in the bar. The following morning he would have a terrible headache and be very contrite. He loved his daughter very much and he would try to make it up to her. He would buy her pretty things and call her his little nightingale, for Diana loved to sing and she had a beautiful voice…”

“Did he have a hang over?” James asked.

“Yes, he had a hang over,” Janis replied.

“Like what you had after Aunty Betty’s birthday party last Easter?” James asked, with a cheeky grin as he looked up at Janis.

“You are a cheeky monkey and I have half a mind not to tell you the rest of the story.”

“Oh please finish the story,” Jeana pleaded.

“Yes finish the story. I will be quiet,” James said quickly.

“Working at the taverna was Ali. He had just turned up one day dirty and ragged, aged about eleven, unable to say from where he had come. But what was evident was that he was starved and beaten and had no memory, or he had deliberately blocked out where he had come from.

“Like Uncle Omi?” Jeana said.

“Well yes. I never thought of it that way very like our Omi,” Janis said with a smile.

“So Diana’s father gave the poor misplaced boy a job as a stable lad. Very like the way my father, Old Christos, gave Omi a job on the farm all those years ago. Ali had worked there ever since and he worked very hard and tried to please his boss. Diana’s father used to say that ‘Ali ate so much that first year he came to them, that he thought that he would burst or send them into ruin’. But the skinny boy had turned into a fine looking teenager. Ali and Diana became friends right from the beginning. The brown eyed lonely girl and the forlorn lost boy, who had no history. Diana’s father did not encourage this relationship, but he was often busy and distracted in the taverna. Diana and Ali became very close. Eventually the inevitable happened and they fell in love. They met in secret. Diana would invent errands and Ali would walk out with one of the horses. When they did meet, it was quite innocent, holding hands, quick furtive kisses. They were like two puppies desperate for some affection.

One night they decided to meet in the stable. But it was busy in the taverna that night and Diana’s father was rushed off his feet and short handed. He decided that Diana, now fifteen, was old enough to help out, collecting plates and empty glasses to be washed. So he called up to her in her room. But he got no reply.

‘Where are you girl,’ he yelled. When he went to find her she was not there, he panicked and a search party was formed.

They found them, Diana and Ali, curled up in each others arms in one of the stables, fast asleep. Diana’s father was furious, he dragged Diana back to the house and then went back to the stable and beat poor Ali with a horse bridle and then he told him to get out.

‘I never want to see you here again,’ he said. ‘You keep away from my daughter.’

Ali could hardly walk but he stumbled out of the stable and down the road towards the village square. When Diana’s father returned to the house he checked on Diana who was crying piteously on her bed.

‘You will never see Ali again,’ he said.

‘What,’ she gasped. ‘But dad where is he?’

‘He has gone; I have thrown him out.’ With that Diana’s father stomped out of the room leaving Diana distraught and alone.

She cried for a while but then she put of her coat and left the house.

‘I will find him,’ she said to herself. It did not take her long, for Diana found Ali in the garden of the school house near the village square. They clung to each other in the chilly night air. The only cover they could find was a sapling olive tree that had been planted next to the grave yard. The pair huddled together shivering and desperate all the long cold night but in the morning they were dead. And that was when they found them there entwined under the olive tree and that is where they buried them. The olive tree grew, blossomed and bore fruit. It is said that the olives from that tree tasted so good it would bring tears to the eyes of those who ate them. In the spring the blossoms were perfect and each year the limbs of the tree entwined more and more around each other. In the lover’s tree a nightingale sang every night, and it’s said that the sound it made was so beautiful that it almost stops the beating of your heart.” Janis concluded.

“What a sad story,” said Jeana.

“I don’t like olives,” said James.

“Don’t let your mother and father hear you say that.” Janis said with a smile. “Talk of the devil here she comes I expect it is time for your tea.”

“Hallo Janis,” Carla said. “Would you like a piece of spinach pie with us? I have just made a batch and there is plenty to spare,” Carla said. “And there’s loads of salad enough for an army.”

Janis smiled, he remembered Carla’s first attempts at making spinach pie when she first married his grandson Marcos, and they had been disastrous.

“Spinach pie?” Sure would,” he replied, with a twinkle in his eye.

Carla looked back at Janis as if to say, I have learned a lot since then. So don’t you dare say anything? She thought glancing warily at him.

“Shall I tell you about when your mum first came to live in Greece?” he asked the twins.

“Do you want some pie or not?” Carla said quickly.