Monday, 24 November 2014

The balcony

No sane Greek would have built a balcony out of wood. It's been giving us problems for years, but before we left Ano Korakiana this November we'd made an arrangement to have the present decking removed, all dozen support beams lowered and cleared of rot, the whole re-assembled with eleven additional tantalised beams and new hardwood decking.
The internet makes overseeing building at a distance much easier. Mark, working on our balcony off Democracy Street has uncovered and communicated an unexpected problem.
Part of the support beam that runs the width of the house is badly rotted (photo: Mark Jacks)
The front to back cross beams were all in place - the old ones ground and sanded to remove rot and the new ones tantalised; the lot treated with preservative, then Mark emailed:
Hi Simon and Lin. As you can see from the photo's from today most of the old  beams are now back up along with all the new 7x7 ones. It's been a long slow process getting the beams in order as I first had to get all the rotten wood out (ground out) then sanded out with an orbital using a very course grade p40, then 3 coats of the universal wood preserver which kills all manner of grubs and beetles apparently, then I gave all of the old beams the 2 coats of Resolcoat which seems to have gone off nice and hard so sealing all the preservative in and keeping the bad weather out hopefully.
Before and after (photo: Mark Jacks)
A couple of problems have arisen -  one being the old beams are 14.5 cm x 7 cm (not all are this by the way) and the new ones are 7x7cm with the extra piece under the end being added to make them 14x7cm, which leaves half a cm out from the tops of the new 7x7 cm to the tops of the 14.5 cm beams, meaning  along with other inconsistencies with the old beams not running true we have the decking touching the tops of some of the beams and others not... 
'...touching the tops of some of the beams and others not' (photo: Mark Jacks) its worse out by 1 cm and its least ½ a cm, so I am going to have to pack in places to get the levels as right as I can.
- two you will see on the photo's the beam which is attached to the house (2 actually), the one that is directly under your balcony french windows.  In the very left hand corner the wood is rotten far worse than I thought, this beam holds the house side of I think the last 5 beams.
(photo: Mark Jacks)

I saw a bit of rot on the top of it so got a wire brush and started to scrub away and it just fell apart on the back side up against the wall up until about half way along to the centre of your balcony door. You can even see one of the coach screws now from one of the brackets.
(photo: Mark Jacks)
I have cleaned it out the best I can and given it some of the wood preserver and hardener, but I am not sure if it doesn't need to be replaced totally, which means I have to take half of the beams down again and get another length of timber and replace it
Maybe it will hold for many years after treatment. I don't know, so you can decide on what I should do with that one.
I am behind schedule as I have yet to remove the last middle beam and 2 end beams after having to secure the balcony first , which is in quite a sore state on the whole. I was hoping to be putting the decking on next week but I don't think so, not with these few minor problems arising, then of course I have to adjust all the beams so as they will allow the decking to sit on top .
All the old beams I numbered so as they went back on the same bracket in the same place and even with no work done to the bracket area of the wood on the beam apart from a little sand and then treated, they don't all allow the decking to make contact so I will have to either raise or lower them a little to try and square it all up, just shows how bad the work was done on it in the first place .
That's it , not all doom and gloom from below it looks quite nice. Sally and I think and the weather is great for doing this work. Hope all is well. Cheerio, Mark 
Dear Mark. Thanks for the latest news on the balcony. It will cost more and take more of your time but there's no question this must be made good. Please go ahead and ‘replace totally'.  This is a key support for the whole balcony isn’t it? It will take more time but please order a tanalised beam from the Velonades yard. It’s a jolly good thing you found this. If it had been left, even with a dose of Resolcoat, it could have been a weak link in the whole ‘new’ balcony. Glad you are figuring out ways to deal with the inequalities of the beams as they emerge. That’s our John the Builder again. All the best, Simon
This wooden balcony has been a problem since we bought the house in Ano Korakiana in 2007. It has two balconies - one on the plan and the wooden one not, being treated as a temporary structure. Turning it into a permanent structure would be a bureaucratic nightmare; but ignoring the law and creating an illegal addition would be no better, as planning regulations tighten across the Republic - and rightly so!
Early on we made the mistake of thinking we could make the balcony leak proof, so that the area beneath it would be dry in bad weather. We covered the decking with UV resistant polythene and went to great pains to seal it all the way round. We should have realised that covering the wood in this way would make it sweat, encouraging rot...

I put some L-brackets under the dodgier decking and even began replacing some of the planks, an expensive option that didn't deal with rot in the support beams...
Before Mark started work
By May this year I was putting temporary planks over the worst areas of rot; wholly unsatisfactory, especially as we'd at last dealt with the problem of keeping the space under the balcony dry by rigging a tarp on hooks and carefully anchored bungees.

Amy and her mum fix a tarpaulin to create a rain shelter beneath the balcony

Once it had been fitted the first time, it has become a matter of minutes to put up the tarp and take it down.  It works perfectly. If only we'd thought of this years ago. The new decking will have gaps between planks; no attempt to make it into a 'roof' for the veranda below. It will be stronger, having more support beams. It's hardwood, more resistant to sun and rain. The wood will never be covered again, prevented from breathing or allowed to rot. Yet the balcony will remain, as legally necessary, a temporary structure; not too tricky to disassemble if required.
When we first inspected this house in in 2005 we were taken out onto this balcony. It was where Linda and I decided to buy the house.
Our wooden balcony ~ overlooking the Sea of Kerkyra, Albania and Epirus on the mainland of Greece beyond

And one of our neighbours from Democracy Street - Angeliki Anthi - posted on Facebook:
Οι Κορακιανίτες κατ' επιλογήν, όπως ο φίλος Simon, ο γείτονας και φίλος Mark και πολλοί άλλοι, είναι άξιοι σεβασμού, εκτίμησης κι αγάπης! Πιστεύω πως κι αυτοί τρέφουν τα ίδια αισθήματα προς εμάς, αλλά πολύ περισσότερο στον τόπο μας! Αυτό φαίνεται με την προσοχή και τη φροντίδα που έχουν δείξει με τις κατοικίες τους ώστε να μην αλλοιωθεί η αρχιτεκτονική του χωριού μας! Να είναι σίγουροι πως δεν θέτουν σε κίνδυνο "την ακεραιότητα" της Κορακιάνας, και ακόμη πως δεν τους θεωρούμε "αλλοδαπούς" αλλά σημαντικό κομμάτι της κοινότητάς μας.
Could anyone ask for such generosity of spirit?
Τι γλυκό πράγμα είδους να πω, Αγγελική! Είναι τιμή μου. Συγχωρήστε τα ελληνικά μου (:)) Σαίμον και Λίντα
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I had lunch with Mark Woblee* in town. He'd driven down from Lancashire to give me recordings he'd made of Old Country as a young man. We had two pints of Doom Bar and sausages and mash in The Bull on Loveday Street. A proper pub entirely built for privacy in public and undamaged by restoration and fake tradition.
*Mark's domain name! He's really Mark Carroll, but I rather like Woblee.
In The Bull, Birmingham Gun Quarter

I've seen some of Mark's recordings of Old Country before but not all the episodes he's so generously let me have, and certainly not the ones with signing, nor the additional programme - a BBC interview. Pity that the recording ends abruptly mid-sentence before the end.

Almost within minutes of streaming it on Facebook I got a message:
Iwan Bob Geldart - I was a cameraman on the show on the Vimeo link above. The show was Open Air shot at BBC North Studio B, Oxford Road in Manchester. The presenter was Susan Rae
...and then hardly an hour later...
  • Simon Baddeley Thanks Iwan. For neatness it'd be good to have a date, but I've already got more than I could have expected from you by way of information. Perhaps Susan Rae will know. I'll tweet her.
    1 hr · Edited · Like
  • Ian Wegg Earlier this year the BBC put online transcripts of every single edition of "The Radio Times" so thanks to Iwan providing the show title we can track this down to 2nd May 1988.

    Do you know whether this programme was actually broadcast as scheduled? If not, tell us what was. Or do you know something else about this programme? The information you send using the Tell Us More form will not be published on the page. We plan to hold on to it and use it at a later stage, to fill…
I'd never heard of the BBC Genome Project. I searched my name and came up with Miles Blackley's BBC Private Investigations programme about the Victoria Jubilee Allotments made in 1999
Victoria Jubilee Allotments: BBC Private Investigations from Simon Baddeley on Vimeo.

Shoot forward 15 years ....Wet on the allotment this Friday.

Not much to do but continue weeding and tidying. Winnie pruning too.

She found a plastic cloche and made it into a shelter for Oscar as he gazed at the park. I dug up enough potatoes for supper and harvested a pound of Jerusalem Artichokes - peeled, boiled and liquidised with a chopped onion and a few young carrot leftovers in chicken stock made a good winter soup.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Back in Birmingham

All Saints Street, Hockley ~ on my route via the canal towpath to the centre of town
I'm back in Birmingham. We're back in England. I'm cycling through parks, along towpaths, sometimes with Oscar...a flâneur again.
With Oscar and a heron on the Birmingham Mainline - towpath improved by the Canal & River Trust

...wandering around the markets, sweeping up leaves, bagging them for compost, mowing twelve weeks of grass on the lawns, checking up on the allotment where I've garlic to plant - for a start. The other night we had a meeting of the Handsworth Helping Hands Committee...
Meeting of Handsworth Helping Hands Committee at Simon and Lin's home

Agenda: 1st item - Apologies from John Rose; Present - Mike Tye (Chair), Linda Baddeley (Hon Treasurer), Denise Forsyth, Jimoh Folarin, Charles Bates and (taking the photo and minutes) Simon Baddeley, Hon.Sec (also tea maker)...2nd item: approve last meeting minutes: approved 3rd item: finances: Lin reports - healthy and transparent; 4th item - work done and planned - an inventory of jobs done and planned; current concerns about the problem of hiring skips for street clean-ups "They're more and more expensive"
"The companies delivering them aren't always reliable"
"How about relations with Fleet and Waste Management?"
"Can they replace skips for our next 'Skip-it Don't Tip-it' day in just over 10 days?"
"We'll just have to hire skips entirely from our own funds then?"
"This time - yes"
5th item; AOB and date of next meeting - 11 Dec'14
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Black Lake Metro stop

In the urban sprawl I am wholly fascinated by the experience of non-places, by placelessness part created by auto dependency part by post-industrial destruction of an area once defined by manufacture...
The Black Country as it was

....but also by the mental shift that allows me to find these de-identified spaces almost a pleasure (especially when it's dreich - chilly and wet - and I'm in warm outdoor clothes, and car drivers are even happier to be in their havens) not least for the sudden juxtaposition and surprise afforded by a building or an experience that recovers somewhere from nowhere. I was trying to explain this to Richard Pine while we were having a family lunch  in TomasO Foros in Old Perithia - a once deserted village on an island defined by its multiplicity of places.
"Have you come across psychogeography?" I asked, knowing him perfectly capable of understanding the notion of strolling off predictable paths.
"Hrumph!" he replied, wholly of the belief that places are either a delight because unspoiled by mass tourism or desecrated ruins.
Lunch at O Foros in Palia Perithia with the family and Richard Pine

The other day I was stuck for nearly an hour near Black Lake Metro stop, expecting to be collected for a meeting of the Friends of Black Patch Park. Like so much of the Black Country at night there was little hint of place, just roads, lightless buildings and streaming lights on wet roads.

I cycled to a cross roads to look around. I glimpsed a branch of Staples in the distance. All of a sudden I came across a temple, back slightly from the road...
Shree Krishna Temple, Old Meeting Street, West Bromwich
...a pleasing surprise. A narrow column of light came from the large front doors beyond the grey stone portal. A Hindu Temple; not an adapted church; one built to the principles  of Vastu shastra. I'd learned something of the precise complexity of these buildings when, over ten years ago, I went with some of my Japanese students to see the famous Shree Swaminarayan Mandir, the magnificent Hindu temple in Neasden, where the architecture relies on huge cut stones placed one above the other without cementing mortar.
I forgot about waiting for an appointment that wasn't kept; just headed home the way I'd come. Then 30 minutes later Harjinder collected me and drove me to where we had a wonderful shared meal at a small restaurant almost hidden in a line of shops at Great Bridge - Sanam Tandoori, Tipton. Ron. Our chair, Ron Collins, caught me up on what had been discussed at the meeting; mainly about the terms for a partnership with Sandwell Council for the renovation and stewardship of the Community Centre in Black Patch, something about which I remain sceptical, wondering if there could not be a S106A in connection with an application to build a recycling centre next to the park. It could be a way of funding a full-time manager for the centre. On his smartphone Harjinder showed me a 30 second clip from the series Peakyblinders which I've heard about, repeating the now familiar conjecture that Charlie Chaplin, brought up in south east London, was born on the Black Patch.
“He was a bookie in Birmingham, then he went to Los Angeles. He’s a Romany gypsy like Chaplin. He keeps it a secret, Chaplin was born on the Black Patch, a gypsy camp in Birmingham. That’s why he gave Wag a job, even though Wag was on the run.” Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby in Episode 5, Season 2 of BB2's Peaky Blinders
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Gave a talk (as I do now and then) about Handsworth Park the other night - to the Great Barr Local History Society in the Great Barr Memorial Hall with a plaque on the wall commemorating local men killed in the Great War. Took my folding bike on the 51 from Perry Barr bus; was early so had a tray of chips with curry sauce....

...and enjoyed it by the dual carriageway; then gave my talk to a lovely group of people - many my age and older - full of stories and questions and welcome mugs of tea....

...then, since the next bus wasn't for over 20 minutes, cycled back in the rain - mostly downhill - to Handsworth, where Lin and I had a late supper, salad, chicken legs and baked potatoes

At the Memorial Hall I was told a story. Maurice, even older than I, told me a tale his father had told him of the park pond before the Great War. There were fewer and fewer fish to be caught by the keen local anglers who fished the pond in the 1900s. A great pike was rumoured to be eating them. A reward was offered of a month's wages - £5 - to anyone who could catch and dispatch it. Many tried and failed, losing their tackle. Eventually a man called Morton, who lived off Holly Road, succeeded in landing and killing the great predator. He got the reward and spent it - plus another £3 - on taking the beast to a taxidermist. The stuffed pike, in a glass cabinet, was displayed with pride in his home. Ever after locals called him 'Pikey' Morton. He'd button-hole people and boast of his catch; how that fish came out of the pond "barking like a dog", "lips full of rusty hooks", "wrapped itself three times round me!" I wonder where Morton's pike might be now.

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Richard Pine who has written about the difficulty of getting Greek writing translated into English and other languages, encouraged me to read Apostles Doxiades' Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture. Given my mathematical illiteracy it's not promising but then critics similarly innumerate praise Doxiades' novel. 

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As one of the 1000 elders recruited to take part in research overseen by Professor Janet Lord at the Medawar Centre for Healthy Ageing Research....

....I've agreed to take part in another small experiment...

...which gave me a chance to cycle to the Medical School along a resurfaced towpath - several miles greatly improved...
Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Birmingham University is the rough stony path through Perry Hall Playing Fields which I used the other evening for the first time in years, giving a nice route between One Stop Shopping Centre and Handsworth Wood Road...
The new cycle path through Perry Hall Playing Fields - one pleasing product of the Birmingham Cycling Revolution

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So consoling to work through a checklist of errands - like mowing lawns and firming up a shelf in our larder...

Cameron fears second global financial crash - does the UK want UKIP or Labour or more austerity and are we all going to die?
Amazon UK with precise micromarketing expertise (note the generous range of search terms, but why the use of singular where plural is the norm?) has suggested I might like to buy 'New men Sexy seamless underwear pants briefs U convex pouch thong knicker'

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