Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Winter onions showing through

Winnie has sent me pictures of her labours Plot 14 on the Victoria Jubilee; my winter onions surfacing; Brussels sprouts coming along; Jerusalem artichokes doing fine. What also pleases me is the appearance of the soil as a result of our continued weeding and mixing with compost, and the neat work Winnie’s done with weed suppressant and the flowers she's planted on some of the borders.
The soil on my allotment is getting closer to how I want it to be

From W: its coming along I still got so much to do up there  it will all be done by the time u come back  everyone up there keeps walking past n saying its coming along so well I think they would love to nick me to do theres - hahah  - yours is looking the best hahah  I love it up there I had to get some more gas coz the one run's it over there?
We are full up with family - Amy and the baby plus Oliver and Amy's friend Liz and her one year old Sophia. Lovely weather this last week. Shirtsleeves, swimming but also endless nappies! And constant sentry duty on babs. What you are doing makes me so pleased and happy. X S
don't worry simon u be home soon back up there  having tea hahah...all the big stones will be moved I get the pins and all the sides will be done to I put up feed for the littie birds blue tits we get now and I planted a plant that the bees love Denise gave it me for the bees haha u have a place for ya bike n van when it all done
Winnie's stone garden
It is – rightly – forbidden to use artificial pesticides on all Birmingham CC allotments; ditto nutrients. Getting the soil right now feels to me the priority to an extent I hadn’t grasped as I kicked off with digging and weeding – especially the extraction of couch grass roots – the new plot in 2010. The developer treated us all too casually, hence the lack of proper topsoil when we took over the plot, and the plethora of old bricks, glass, bits of plastic, wire, chunks of wood and seemingly endless stones.
Weed suppressing cover on Plot 14
***** *****
From Martin:
Hi Simon. Progress report - when we arrived at the cottage yesterday (Saturday), the chimney breast had dried out somewhat - but the bedroom above is damp still on the outer wall, and that drain is definitely blocked. I've diverted the down pipe shoe at the bottom to temporarily divert rainwater away from the structure, but I really need to get that guttering fixed urgently. I'll see if I can find a roofer to do it. Getting to it is the problem though.
I lit a log fire all day Saturday, and this helped dry things out. The heating is drained down at the moment.
We went to remove the furniture, and had a grisly discovery;
The rat that lived in our sofa

It appears 'Roland' had been living in the sofa! - the furniture has now been burned in the garden, along with the ruined cupboards.
I've got the radiators back on, and have the phone number of the man who installed the boiler - so I was going to try and get him back the charge, refill, service, and re-commission the gas boiler - if that's OK with you. After so long being unused there could be corrosion and dangerous fumes from the heat-exchanger. It could be dangerous.
The bathroom is coming on:-

Adam and Jack are back there today, I have fully briefed them on what to do. Regards, Martin x
**** ****
Meanwhile, in the village, students from the architecture department at the University of Patras are using Ano Korakiana's churches and connected building as case material for their studies in design and restoration...
Αρχιτεκτονική Σχολή...επί το έργον
Γράφει ο/η Κβκ   
Ξεχωριστό το χθεσινό σαββατιάτικο πρωϊνό για το χωριό μας…και αυτό χάρη στην παρουσία φοιτητών και φοιτητριών του Τμήματος Αρχιτεκτονικής του Πανεπιστημίου Πατρών με επικεφαλής τον επικ. Καθηγητή Σταύρο Μαμαλούκο (με σημαντική επιστημονική δραστηριότητα στους τομείς της έρευνας της εκκλησιαστικής αρχιτεκτονικής, της συντήρησης και αποκατάστασης μνημείων κ.ά.). Το χωριό επιλέχτηκε για την πρακτική άσκηση των φοιτητών σε εκκλησίες και παλαιά χαρακτηριστικά οικήματα και η παρουσία τους θα διαρκέσει έως την Δευτέρα.
Λίγο μετά την άφιξή τους και τη συνάντηση με την εκπρόσωπο της Δημοτικής μας Κοινότητας Αγγέλα Θύμη και τα μέλη του εκκλησιαστικού συμβουλίου του Άη-Γιώργη, Σπύρου Βλάχου και Χρήστου Ζερβόπουλου, θα χωριστούν σε δύο ομάδες για να αναλάβουν δράση στο εκκλησάκι του Αγίου Στεφάνου στην πλαγιά του βουνού και σε κατοικία στο μεσαίο δρόμο του χωριού.
Η εργασία της ομάδας και του επικεφαλής της είναι αξιέπαινη και ελπιδοφόροα για το νέο επιστημονικό δυναμικό του τόπου μας, που παρά τη δύσκολη συγκυρία, αποκτάει τις βάσεις για να κρατήσει ζωντανή την ομορφιά και την ταυτότητα, που μας κληροδότησαν οι προηγούμενες γεννιές και την οποία συχνά και υπό την πίεση της ανάγκης, καταναλώνουμε.
Το μεσημέρι η «ομάδα» θα βρεθεί να απολαμβάνει τον ίσκιο και το κρασί (φανταζόμαστε) στην περγουλιά του Γιώργου Μεταλληνού, στο μεσαίο δρόμο, ενώ η εργασία της αποτύπωσης θα κρατήσει έως αργά το σούρουπο, για να συνεχιστεί τις επόμενες δύο ημέρες…
Υ.Γ. Το πόσο δύσκολο και απαταιτικό είναι να διατηρήσουμε τα στοιχεία της αρχιτεκτονικής (και όχι μόνο) παράδοσής μας, φάνηκε στο διάβα της «ομάδας» από την συνοικία του Άη-Γιώργη, όπου δόθηκε η αφορμή για μία ολιγόλεπτη, πλην όμως γεμάτη πάθος και αγάπη για το έργο του, υπαίθρια «διάλεξη» του κου καθηγητή, προς όλους τους ακολουθούντες…φοιτητές και μη.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Picnic below Mount Pantokrator

Picnic below Pantokrator (photo: Liz Basden)

We got out of our cars into warm sunlight before the mist arrived to surround our small stroll around the summit of Mount Pantokrator, now and then parting to reveal the distant roofs of Old Sinies far below, and closer, the winding white road by which we'd arrived, ascending from Ano Korakiana via Sokraki, Zigos, Sgourades and Strinilas. Lin and I explored the cluster of commercial radio huts, slung with humming air conditioning units, a hamlet of aerials glued with concrete to the southern col of our small summit.

The monastery church was locked and barred.
"Why?" I asked Spiro in the shop
"The priest is ill. Normally it's always open"
Young cats, unlike most in the village, collected for cuddling - unwary of strangers
We descended a kilometer to a place in sight of the mountain top and spread a picnic on a grazing just off the road in the company of things that keep people away from such lovely places – two varieties of ant, a dung beetle, wasps, a lone mantis, a bumble bee, small butterflies and day moths.
"Why didn't you bring the picnic blankets?" asked Lin
"I forgot"
I'd spread a spare shirt, a couple of towels, even my jacket.
"We're fine!"

*** *** ***
Yesterday we went as usual when we have a car to the Lighthouse - ο Φόρος – table-top sale at Kontokali, then after the usual humming and haaing with arguments and indecision, to a pebbled beach near the ruin of the old Venetian Arsenal where the Corfu Rowing Club have made three wooden rafts into a jetty.
We’d bought souvlaki and giros from Spiridoula, working as ever over the turning spit at George’s.
“Did you get chips for Guy and Amy?” asked Lin
“No! I got what people ordered..I made the list as I thought agreed"
Lin shrugged to Amy “You didn’t tell your father to get chips as well”
“Shall I go back?”
“No don’t bother”
We sat in the sun on two picnic rugs I’d remembered to bring this time. I sat on the jetty, jeans rolled up, and dangled my feet in the mild sea. A slight breeze blew from the north. A few locals shared the shore.
Gouvia pier

Planes came high overhead now and then. After a while Guy and Amy took Hannah and Oliver further along the shore for shade. Lin lay to read. Sophia slept. Liz and I leapt off the jetty; drying and warming and swimming again. As the sun lost some of its strength Amy and Guy came back with the grandchildren. Oliver dislikes water at the moment and clung to Guy up to his waist. Liz dipped Sophia.
“There’s a pervert over there.” said Liz “He's watching the women. I don’t think it’s at the kids”
“He had his hand in his underpants feeling himself…Doing it” said Amy
I saw this gaunt elderly man, lean and bronzed, in the distance. I strolled over crunching gravel and for an hour stood between him and his glassy stare, standing by him in the water when he rose unsteadily and swam a few listless strokes; resting my shadow across him, as muttering soundlessly he tried to stare at women on the beach with the rusty focus of a spent torpedo. Peering at his watch he picked himself up and doddered from the beach.
Amy joined me jumping in again ...

..and so it was for the rest of the afternoon, before going into town; watching the sun set from the Faliraki corniche, a drive homewards for a long supper at pleasantly talkative Strapunto – delicious grilled meats (some boxed to take home for Sunday supper), breads, feta and salad, grilled mushrooms, chips and the children not embarrassing us too much with sudden complaints, as we sat across from a model family, father and uncle, mother, three small slim daughters and yiayia smiling benignly.
Home again in the cool of the evening
“Don’t bring the washing in now” said Lin “It’ll be fine in the morning”
The children disappeared into the soundest sleep.
“I’ll shower off this salt in the morning” I thought, heading for slumber, nearing the end of Jeffery EugenidesMiddlesex – a wonderful fictional biography about Greeks in America starting - almost - with the destruction of Smyrna; the massacres of 1922 - an event whose truth is debated still.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

A family visit to the Museum

Angeliki arranged for the family including Liz and Sophia, to see inside the Aristeidis Metallinos Museum one Wednesday morning
“My parent's house is full of children. Let me take you all for a coffee at Stamati’s after your visit” she suggested
Given the logistics, I was delighted we were all ready just before noon. At the door of the museum Angeliki let us in.
Liz and Sophia in the Aristeidis Metallinos museum
It was a short visit – maintaining the connection – but I learned a little more. Liz had never seen the place. She harboured ideas of 'naughty carvings'. I liked her reaction to the laic sculptor's sequence ‘from the history of women'. Aristeidis, without, so far as I know, a scintilla of reading about feminism, has traced, in five carvings, his view of a puzzling, but most definite path from beast of burden via male symbols made androgynous, breasted flightless cockerel, an intercontinental missile guided by its rider, to the power source – a fecund bud and breasts. Whence came these images? First stolid and grounded, then springing, soaring?
Aristeidis Metallinos, his gaze - 'from the history of woman' (1978)
Imagine them placed and lit by a skilled curator. There are more direct works...
Aristeidis' take on Eve and original sin 1982

Aristeidis Metallinos The Queen of the World 1983 (Cat 46) "who will bring peace and love to the world"
...but that sequence seems most original, sticking in my mind, ringing no bells of connection to similar images from other hands. Alexandra Moschovi has encouraged me to run these works beside events of the artist's time. Angeliki told me over coffee at Piatsa, that her grandfather, having taken a bus from Ano Korakiana to the city, went to watch films there. Some would, like The Saint of Preveza,  from a non-fiction novel by Spyros Karatzapherēs Σπύρος Καρατζαφέρηςbeen erotic and sexually explicit, while disappointing the eye of an audience seeking pornography.  Mark told me that there was also a drive-in cinema on the outskirts of the city which showed porn films, but these at the Oasis were films breaking rules of imposed and self-imposed censorship before and after the departure of the Colonels; in this case the director Dimitris Kollatos Δημήτρης Κολλάτος testing the limits then and now (see also)
"My grandfather went on his own, on the bus" said Angeliki
"Not with Eleni?"
"No he was a typical Greek man in that respect. His wife stayed at home, with the children, doing the cooking..." She smiled at this.
The family with Angeliki Metallinos (centre) at Piatsa the other day (photo: Stamatis Savannis)

Later Stamatis told me that in those days Ano Korakiana was served by more buses taking villagers and visitors in and out of the city.
"Many people from here would go there for the day, the evening. There was an open air cinema near Sa'Rocco called Oasis (Stamatis pronounced it with a short 'a' ... O- as - is). You could sit and have food and drink watching a film."
"Ah!" I thought; the self-taught sculptor's anticipation on the bus from the village; the watching, perhaps discussion - or did he sit alone? And afterwards...reflection, as the bus wound back to his village, Aristeidis' already sketching on a split-open cigarette packet, itching to set-to on marble with chisel and mallet.
The Saint of Preveza

I asked Stamatis about reaction to the showing in the 1980s of the film about Stylianos Kornaros, the bishop who'd had a scandalous affair with the wife of another bishop.
"In the town there were demonstrations against the showing;" Stamatis told me "Priests and religious people protested."
*** *** ***
Just caught the bus to Ano Korakiana - "€2 to the village please"
We’ve made ourselves car free; concentrating on the local circumference encourages walking. Amid rain I dropped off the car at the airport, unloaded my folding bicycle; scurried into town between downpours. Awaiting my 12.15 bus to the village I sat with a diplo skirto and a brandy beneath an awning. Rain washed the city, scouring gutters, clearing downpipes, sweeping the marble paving, pouring into bubbling drains. Waterlogged waist down, I sat with one other passenger on the green bus back to the village with a towel over my knees. One more day the rain continued. Mist occluded our space. Washing accumulated. Two evenings I lit our stove, to Lin’s protests. On the third afternoon a long margin crossed the sky – its precise cloudless side, ours for the rest of a hot drying afternoon. These salady October days have run for twelve days,  welcoming our mornings with bright slivers and sharp shadows, even as the evenings draw in, and I add a long-sleeve shirt over my daily T-shirt and shorts.
Walking below Ano Korakiana with my beloveds

Back numbers