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Memories of The Decca Record Company, London

The staff of L'Oiseau-Lyre record division, The Decca Record Company, Albert Embankment, London, in January 1980. From left to right: David Cade, Peter Wadland, Janet Tomczynska, and Raymond Ware (Executive Producer).

I found it thrilling working at Decca. Every day meant contact with the musicians, conductors, and singers who recorded with the L'Oiseau Lyre label, the Decca label, and sometimes even the Argo label (Decca's "Spoken Word" division in Kensington). In 1979 I created the above collage of many of our classical and spoken word artists for my office wall. I hope it is still hanging somewhere.

Time for much more "What if?"
thinking in Greece!

It’s been very interesting watching all the finger-pointing that has been going on in Greece since the tragic fire at Mati. A lunatic bishop lays the blame on the Prime Minister himself - for not believing in (non-existent) heavenly beings! Other people say the whole of the Syriza party is entirely to blame! Others insist the pine trees were to blame! Others want to punish the rich people with seaside villas, walls, and fences. Others want to roast the region’s planning authorities.

From my point of view I see an extraordinary need for far more Collective Responsibility amongst Greek citizens generally. I think that many more people in Greece need to start caring as much for what occurs beyond the walls or boundaries of their own homes as they care for what happens WITHIN their own properties. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited into many Greek homes, humble to opulent, and I have noted the great cleanliness, pride, and order in nearly all of them. But step beyond the building or the garden wall, and things are often different. Behind the stunning villa, junk and rubbish is thrown upon the beautiful countryside. On the wall of the building of orderly apartments is hideous graffiti, with a pile of rubbish beneath. By way of Collective Responsibility there’s a need at all levels for co-operation and respect for all that exists BEYOND the home.

And amidst such Collective Responsibility there needs to be far more "What if?" thinking in Greece. In every situation the question "What if?" has to be asked. It must never be avoided. It’s troublesome always making yourself ask this question, but in the end it proves to be worth it. The worst scenario must always be envisaged, and then precautions must be taken so that that scenario may not occur, or if it does occur so that it will cause as little harm or disruption as possible. Such "What if?" thinking, also known as "Mental Look-Ahead", goes hand in hand with Collective Responsibility. Neither can work effectively without the other. If only all of the citizens of Mati and all of those people responsible for the services supplied to Mati, as well as the planning permissions for Mati, had stopped long ago to ask together as a co-operative group the question, "What if there were to be a fire in the middle of a hot summer in this area?" If only. But such thinking has to be habitual. It has to be taught in schools. It is part of imaginative education.

At the same time we must not forget that the police are investigating the possibility of arsonists having been responsible for the inferno. Asking "What if?" with regard to the possibility of fires may lead to precautions and emergency plans, but the most wicked of arsonists could scupper such plans. So by way of Collective Responsibility one also has to ask "What if arsonists were to light a number of fires simultaneously?" Shrugging one’s shoulders and saying "Ti na kanoume!" and thinking that life is too short to be always worrying about worst-possible scenarios just is not good enough. You end up paying a terrible price: the outcomes of lack of vigilance and attention. Collective Responsibility has to eliminate the antics of vandals and arsonists. Look at the constant vandalism of central Athens: the collective crackdown has to start there. In fact zero tolerance of destructive behaviour has to begin before Collective Responsibility, which is a positive behaviour, can truly take root throughout society.

But the law must be respected and Collective Responsibility does not mean that citizens can take matters into their own hands. But citizens can force and coerce those whose job it is to attend to society’s needs and demands. Through Collective Responsibility citizens can remove those who are ineffective and install those who will attend diligently to their duties, one of which is constantly asking the question "What if?" So in places like Mati citizens cannot now take tree-cutting or tree-removal into their own hands. Instead the citizens of Mati and all such areas must hound their representatives in local government to attend to all that must be attended to. The citizens must ask "What if?", see what needs attending to, and then, collectively, demand that action is taken. And not just demand once, or twice, but constantly. It must be on-going. There can be no let-up to this process.

The forested hills around one of the cities in which I grew up in New Zealand always seemed horribly blighted to me as a child because of "the fire-breaks" in them - very wide tracks cutting up the bush into segments, or zones, on each track there being not even a blade of grass, just completely bare earth, nothing inflammable or combustible in sight, these tracks being constantly monitored, constantly turned over by tractors. They were ugly and difficult to walk. Was such a system in place around Mati? Did the citizens of Mati ask "What if there were to be fire?" and then take Collective Responsibility until such time as their local authority dealt with that worst-possible scenario: an inferno? Wasn’t it the most obvious question to ask in a country that has been known for its summer fires year after year for so very long, and wasn’t it the most obvious question to ask in a country that is suffering hotter and hotter summers due to Climate-Change? Isn’t it time that by way of Collective Responsibility the people of Greece shame those irresponsible citizens who continue to bury their heads in the sand and deny the realities of Climate-Change? I have had no luck convincing one Greek Facebook friend who lost a home in the Mati fire that Climate-Change is real: he prefers to rage at his local authority for not having let him remove three trees in his garden, as if that would have saved his home and the homes of all those other people who lived around him.

In Australia today naive immigrants (UK expats mostly) are delighted to find that they can afford to buy a big glamorous detached house in "the bush", surrounded by all sorts of trees, all other houses hidden from view. To them it seems like paradise. They don’t realise that these houses are now available and affordable only because many Australians have understood and accepted the realities of Climate-Change. They know that the bush has become a very dangerous place to live during Australia’s long hot summers. They know that Climate-Change is real and making the situation worse. So, many Australians will no longer live in those lovely lavish houses hidden in the woods.

If not now, then when will people everywhere finally acknowledge our very severe planet-wide problem? How many deaths in floods, hurricanes, and fires will it take before people accept that WE are responsible for it all, that we are tampering with Earth’s precious and finely-balanced eco-system, that we are upsetting "Gaia", and that only WE can do something about it.

So many of us have become lazy, comfort-loving, bloated. Our house, our planet, is on fire but we, like children, want to keep on partying. We don’t want to ask that fearful question, "What if it’s all true?" and we don’t want to have to engage in all the hard work that saving ourselves and all the flora and fauna of this extraordinary planet will require.

Lastly, a plea for the trees specifically. This planet desperately needs every tree and many many more trees than we presently have. So let us not blame the trees. Let us not cut down the trees "so there’ll be no more fire risks!" That will not solve our long-term Climate-Change problem at all. Before cursing the trees that were burnt, think of the many cities surrounded by trees and full of trees where there are no terrible forest fires because there is excellent fire-prevention management. So, do not blame the that loveliest of things, the tree. Do not even blame the fire that consumed the trees! Fire is our friend. We need fire. We depend upon fire. Blame instead ourselves for failing to ensure that Fire could not spiral into an Inferno.

Let us take Collective Responsibility to point the finger at ourselves and to start looking at EVERYTHING around us afresh and to ask with regard to each thing, "What if?"

Greek Edition Published

This morning word arrived here in Shrewsbury that the Greek edition of 'Athens - The Truth' had been published! An hour later photos appeared, showing that dozens of copies had already been placed in the windows of Savalas's showroom in Exarcheia, central Athens.

The translation project was initiated in May 2012, so it's been a long haul, almost three years, but it's been the very best - a rare adventure. Nikos Dramountanis, Savalas's Publishing Manager, and I were agreed from the outset that the translation had to be the very best possible. To that end then a kind of informal tendering began, and soon four professional Greek translators, all based in Athens, were invited to provide a sample, a translation of part of the book's first chapter. Once the samples had then been received, Nikos and the editor, Evangelia Sophianou, were in complete agreement that the task of translating 'Athens - The Truth' had to go to Beatrice Cantzola-Sabbatakou, an accomplished translator who has won awards for previous work. For her sample Beatrice had most impressively translated the entire first chapter (a long one!) and I was assured by both Evangelia and Nikos that she had done it very well. And so contractual arrangements for the task began.

The bulk of the work, the translating and the editing, was of course seen to by Beatrice and Evangelia, and it was a pleasure to observe how well they collaborated. In their determination to provide an entirely faithful translation, one reflecting every nuance and subtlety of the original, they each deferred to me a great deal over the course of 14 months, for clarification on even slight details. I was thrilled to receive their questions, and thrilled again when often they returned to me to insist on a certain point or to seek deeper clarification. They were thoroughly painstaking and assiduous in their efforts.

And now the Greek edition is out! And what a very handsome and substantial volume it is! The book is available from every major bookseller in Greece and one Greek bookseller is even feeding it through to Amazon, so that anyone in the UK wanting a copy of the Greek edition can obtain it with ease from this page at In Greece most booksellers are discounting the book by roughly a euro but the bookshop offering it at the most competitive price, with a deduction of three euros, is currently Politeia Bookshop on Odos Asclepius, close to the corner of Asclepius and Akadamias (210-3600235, 210-3616373, Mon to Fri: 9am to 9pm, Sat 9am to 6pm).

So the Greek edition having appeared with the first daffodils it too has heralded the coming of spring 2015, and I've sat today with Master Peibyn down by the River Severn and wondered for a moment at the extraordinary journey that began way back in 2009 and which appears now to have finally come to an end.

My deepest thanks to everyone involved!

Dreams of Greece

This morning in a remote and sleepy hamlet in the Shropshire Hills, England, I hear Wellington Libraries is offering its readers several copies of my book ‘Athens - The Truth’. As the city of Wellington was for me a crucible of the happiest of young dreams and imaginings, I’m delighted.

The book’s about modern Athens but it’s underpinned by my passion for a particular form of Greek music, as discovered in a small Greek music section in a long-gone record shop in the Cuba Street Mall. At any one time there were only about fifteen LPs in the rack there, and all of their titles, in the strange alphabet of Greece, were completely incomprehensible to me. But I found the music devastating.

When I became a student, I worked the summer holidays sorting mail in the large new Post Office building on Waterloo Quay. From 6 each morning I was perched on a stool popping letters and postcards into pigeon-holes for delivery all over Wellington. It would’ve been mind-numbing if my head hadn’t been full of those Greek melodies. And every day amongst the never-ending piles of mail there were always a dozen or so colourful postcards from Greeks in Greece, written to friends and family in Wellington. How I wished back then that I could decipher that alphabet! But the images on the cards were sufficient: so many alluring horse-shoe harbours, each surrounded by pantile roofs glowing terracotta under the Grecian sun, and the waters always that deep, rich, sparkling Aegean blue.

At 9 we ascended to the Post Office’s top-floor cafe for morning tea. The bank of pigeon-holes in front of my nose was suddenly replaced by massive glass windows, air and light, and a stunning panoramic view of Wellington’s harbour, sunshine sparkling upon blue water. The postcards from Greece had all sprung to life! For me the harbour below was a Greek bay, and all of Wellington was Athens.

Occasionally a sleek cruiser was docked near Oriental Bay, a blue and white flag resonating with the brilliance of Wellington’s sea and sky. It was a liner from Greece! So as soon as lunchtime came I scooted from wharf to wharf around the quays to behold a piece of Piraeus, right up close. I’d board the ship and chat to its crew. They were real living Greeks! I was beside myself.

But decades passed before I finally got to grips with the city of my dreams. It happened in 2010, just as Greece’s troubles began to erupt. Then I wrote the book, got told by publishers that moneywise it was too risky for them, and so in late 2013 I published it myself. Ever since it’s been selling well and all over the world.

A publisher in Greece then appeared, wishing to produce the book in Greek. So right now two accomplished women in Athens are preparing the translation, and taking very impressive care to ensure complete faithfulness to my text. The Greek edition is planned for publication either later this year or early next year, 2015.

When the publishers released their announcement of the deal, I was intrigued to see that it warned:

David Cade’s ‘Athens – The Truth’ leaves readers startled and fascinated and gives them food for thought. It is a bold, penetrating look at today’s Athens, an enchanting and exasperating city full of contrasts and secret charms, its people and culture, the tempestuous history of a small but proud nation, and the controversial issue of its agonizing present state. Through his plethoric, well-meant criticism, the writer offers us his own truth. Do we have the courage to listen to it?

It’s true I’ve been forthright, but that hasn’t stopped some readers describing the book as a kind of love-letter to Greece. Also, I couldn’t write about Athens without referring occasionally to my own country, New Zealand, so that too receives both praise and criticism. The mix is working. Already ‘Athens - The Truth’ has brought me some valuable new friendships in Greece, the UK, the USA, and Australia. Maybe the same will now happen in New Zealand.

The photo above shows much the same view as I enjoyed from the top of Wellington's General Post Office, now "The New Zealand Post Building".

The Greek Edition.

Savalas Publishers (Athens) have announced the publication later this year of the Greek edition of 'Athens - The Truth'. Nikos Dramountanis, at Savalas, has contracted superb translator Veatriki Savvatakou and the exceptionally talented editor Evangelia Sofianou to produce a fine translation. The Savalas announcment reads as follows:

Savalas Publishers have the honour to announce to their readers that they have obtained the rights to David Cade’s book Athens – The Truth: Searching for Mános Just Before the Bubble Burst, which has been scheduled to come out in Greek.

David Cade’s ‘journey’ to Athens began over five decades ago in New Zealand, when he started to become infatuated with Greek culture and history. However, it was the magical music of Mános Hadjidákis, as it ‘emerged’ from the sheet-music he accidentally discovered in a tiny Greek bookshop in London much later, that ‘haunted’ young David’s imagination and gave rise to his desire to visit the country where the great Greek composer lived and created his timeless works. This dream came true in early 2010.

As newscasts all over the world are already making extensive references to the oncoming economic crisis in Greece, David Cade talks with Athenians, explores many of the city sights, delves into the most crucial periods of Greek history, and discovers aspects of Athens unknown even to its own inhabitants. In an unprejudiced, objective narrative free of any touristic superficiality, and with no intention to sound pleasant or flatter, he shows today’s Greece and its people through the eyes of a foreigner, speaks of the impression Athens makes on its visitors, and tries to explain what makes this city so special.

David Cade’s Athens – The Truth leaves readers startled and fascinated and gives them food for thought. It is a bold, penetrating look at today’s Athens, an enchanting and exasperating city full of contrasts and secret charms, its people and culture, the tempestuous history of a small but proud nation, and the controversial issue of its agonizing present state. Through his plethoric, well-meant criticism, the writer offers us his own truth. Do we have the courage to listen to it?

Clare Reilly.

Time and again, assiduous New Zealand painter Clare Reilly has conveyed the magic of New Zealand’s native forests. She has placed New Zealand’s indigenous landscape’s most beguiling elements in seemingly endless imaginative combinations. Her canvases, at once emblematic and poetic, conjure up all the magic of the sweet and dripping rain-forest or the Kiwi bush of high summer, the whirring of wings and the rapturous music of New Zealand’s native birds. Her paintings are an inspiration. They lend support to New Zealand’s many worthy wildlife conservation projects.

With a typical New Zealand bay as background, the painting above features the tui, New Zealand's highly intelligent, white-tufted, parrot-like honey-eater; the elegant and symmetrical nikau palm; and the giant pohutukawa tree, which blossoms blood-red every year at the height of summer.

View Clare Reilly’s extraordinary body of work at:

A Yen for New Zealand.

So much of New Zealand offers natural majesty and grandeur that every once in a while I have a yen to return to those beautiful islands of the South Pacific where I was born and raised.

On one side of the planet are clean and dramatic shores, pure rainforests, fresh snow-capped mountains, geysers, braided rivers, and hot bubbling mineral springs - such a stunning variety of scenic attractions - while on the opposite side of the world lies the extraordinary birthplace of all the European arts.

Two antipodes.
Two heady and delightful extremes.
So far apart.

A five-year journey nears its end.

The "great project" of the last five years is nearing its end. Later this year its 400 pages will finally be printed and bound. The subject of the book is Greek, a passion I've had for decades. The title is "Athens - The Truth". And there's still a mountain of work to be done. For example, the above is a holding picture only: artwork is to be commissioned for the final cover.

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