Total Pageviews

Saturday, 22 September 2018

A chance to talk about my stepfather

Michael Livesley asked me, out of the blue, to come up to Liverpool, and talk to him in 'The Livo Lounge' about my stepfather, Jack Hargreaves and the work being done to serve his legacy and make his films and books available. This is on Youtube too by the way.


I am quite pleased. I even enjoyed watching myself. Lots more to do of course.
Jack and Simon c.1951 (photo: Barbara Hargreaves)
Michael Livesley and Simon Baddeley in the Livo Lounge  (photo: Mark)

Monday, 27 August 2018

After I'd carried our luggage down the 13 steps

Ano Korakiana. Welcome rain.

After I’d carried our luggage down the 13 steps, while Lin drove on down Democracy Street to park, I returned for our shopping - packed in three cardboard trade boxes. Carried down, I placed these beside the luggage, inside the porch, our closest door. I walked round to the veranda, and opened the other door, in familiar dark I switched on the electric. I walked down to below the apothiki, raised the iron lid above the communal taps, wary of scorpions, and turned the lever on our water meter; and a second lever above the pressure gauge on the side of the house. From the dining room, I opened the sticky front door to heave in luggage and groceries.
The air seemed clean and fresh indoors. “The house feels cool”
Lin had the kettle going. Tea and coffee.
I’d glanced at the tidying to be done – the wisteria sprouting whippy tendrils to be cut back; the reluctant Bougainvillea showing at least some red flowers; invasive pelargoniums to be curbed; dried summer-shed leaves to be swept and put on the compost; litter at the bottom of the path from the street; and the rest of the path, as it passes below the house, needing my sickle to clear our way to the lower road.
I checked to see how the citrus trees were doing since their infestation with scale insects this last year has prevented fruiting. I’d sprayed the trees with olive soap mix in the first week of June. Now at least there was no black mould on the top of the leaves preventing photosynthesis. Although the scale insects had been busy over the last 11 weeks – all my flypapers hung in the branches were covered with their remains. Yet more were stuck on the underside of almost every leaf.
“But” said Lin “they're all dead”
The sticky substance with which I’d circled trunks and veranda pillars seemed to have stopped ants from their suspected symbiotic alliance with scale insects, though wasps were hovering and settling amid the leaves, sipping the remains of the honeydew the scale insects exude.
“And look!” said Lin “I can see at least twenty new lemons”
My heart rose at the sight of them, almost hidden amid foliage.
"Goodness! How that's cheered me up. I wasn't even bothering to look for new fruit yet."
Others in the village have pollarded their trees to skeletons or sprayed insecticide that kills all insects indiscriminately, without guaranteeing that scale insects will not return on new leaf growth.


New lemons on one of our scale insect infested citrus trees
 I suggested we spray again - with olive soap solution only.
“Not so you harm the leaves”
“Perhaps leave it for the moment. Hope for the winter and spring. Pray for new blossom.”
“Sponge off the dead insects from some leaves. Check to see if they return.”
Later our neighbour Katerina spread her arms in exasperated despair. This ‘no-lemons’ problem is "everywhere in the village”
I saw lemons in a net on the fruit counter at Lidl, imported from Spain.
Having lunch in Doukades with Marie and Bo Stille - naturalists,, ecologists, books on the lizards, dragon flies, snakes, slow worms, frogs and toads of the island under their belts - I showed them sample leaves covered in dead insects and one of my flypapers and what we'd done to remedy the infestation.
"Sometimes trees learn." he said "They evolve resistance"
"Really?"
"Sometimes. Yes, Perhaps you should leave things to your trees."


Monday, 2 July 2018

Ερημίτης Erimitis


My friend the writer Richard Pine, who lives in a village in the north of Corfu, has drawn my attention to a recent article by Gerald Durrell’s widow - Lee Durrell - about the 'development' of Erimitis, a nature reserve in the north east of the island. Richard's already written about this man-made disaster in the international press (TLS, Kathimerini English edition, irish Times) and Lee Durrell has a terrific piece in the Sunday Times.




The ‘tiny, green jewel’ of Erimitis in North East Corfu faces being bulldozed for a 45-acre tourist resort. Places where nature remains undisturbed have become so rare these days that we have a duty to try to save them. Such a place, near and dear to my heart, is found on what is still one of the most beautiful islands in the world — Corfu. Glimpses of that beauty are seen in the ITV series The Durrells, the lovingly crafted story of the childhood of my late husband, Gerald Durrell, on Corfu in the Thirties.
Gerald left Corfu as a boy in 1939 and returned as a man in 1960, not without trepidation. He said: “There is always an element of risk in returning to a place in which you were happy.” But Corfu worked its magic once again, and Gerry was overjoyed to be back.
The later Sixties began casting a shadow over him, however. He was dismayed to come across so much plastic on the beaches and offended by the unsightly developments at Paleokastritsa, long one of the island’s peaceful beauty spots, which now reminded him of a “Greek Margate”.
Fast-forward to today, and the undisturbed nature area being threatened is a headland on the northeast coast known as Erimitis, or “the Hermit”, referring to a local fable about a man who lived there as a recluse after his daughter was kidnapped by pirates. It is accessible only by foot or by sea, and the human touch there has been light, with traces of centuries-old buildings, wells and a quarry. Otherwise the dense evergreen maquis is punctuated with bright pebble beaches, brackish lakes and marshes teeming with life. Home to otters, orchids and magnificent strawberry trees, the area is also rich in waterfowl and raptors. Locals and tourists take pleasure in walking (or running!) the steep narrow paths and swimming in the clear warm waters beyond the shore.
Over the years Erimitis has attracted artists, writers and naturalists. Edward Lear was known to visit the area, and Nikos Ghikas, one of Greece’s greatest painters, loved it so much he built a house and lived there from 1969. More recently the botanist David Bellamy has led students and fellow naturalists “in the footsteps of Gerald Durrell” to discover and delight in the fauna and flora.
This natural paradise, however, is in great danger. The Greek government has sold the headland to an American property developer, NCH Capital, which plans to transform it into a tourist resort. Thus, one of the most beautiful and least developed areas of the Mediterranean is about to be bulldozed for what will be one of the biggest development projects in the history of the Ionian islands.
Viewed in a satellite image, Erimitis is a tiny green jewel of 500 acres nestling between a drab inland countryside and the bright blue sea. NCH now has the freehold on 120 acres and plans to sprawl its “tourist village” over 45 acres, with nine acres of buildings. Bafflingly, there seems to have been little consideration of the effect this development would have on the wider infrastructure of roads, water supply and rubbish collection, already stretched to breaking point in many parts of the island. One example, as every visitor to Corfu over the past few years can sadly corroborate, is the piles of rubbish along the roads.
A few concerned citizens have made the municipality of Corfu well aware of the situation, but little action has been taken. Imagine the pressure a huge complex at Erimitis would add.
And what about the effect on the responsible and sustainable tourist industry that has grown up here over the past 40 years? New and returning visitors bring profits to the local people and tax revenue to the government. They come to see and experience the beauty and tranquillity of the region, not to be crammed together in a holiday complex that could be anywhere in the world. It is difficult to imagine that such an extensive development could be sufficiently site-sensitive as not to render a much wider area disagreeable to tourists and the locals. If people start to go elsewhere, the local economy will suffer and, in turn, the community.
Then there’s the impact on faunal biodiversity: the eradication of a unique and fantastic array of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates.
It is not surprising that local opinion has come out strongly against this development, regardless of political affiliation. The regional authority of the Ionian islands, backed by local residents, appealed to the Greek Supreme Court against the sale of Erimitis. Syriza, at that time the main opposition party and now the party in power, protested that the sale was “illegal, unconstitutional and in breach of international law”. Inexplicably, both challenges were dismissed.
Gerald wrote to the Greek prime minister in 1968: “I do hope the necessary authorities in Athens give more power to people on the spot, who are as worried as I am at the all too rapid and tasteless development on the island.” I do not know if Gerry received a reply, but exactly 50 years later I wrote to Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, voicing my objection to the development at Erimitis... and did not receive an answer.
Gerry avoided Corfu in the 1970s, but came back with me in 1983, wanting desperately to show me the natural places and the wildlife that had made his childhood so special. That is when I fell in love with the island. We returned in 1986, with family and friends, to an old villa in Barbati, where we feasted on Corfiot specialities, swam at night in the tepid, moonlit waters and took leisurely boat trips up and down the coast.
On these excursions Gerry would turn his back to the island as we motored by the vast new hotel complexes that scarred the landscape, waiting for our signal that we’d passed these “carbuncles”. Then he would turn and gaze quietly at the olive and cypress-clad hills he remembered so well and at the bright horseshoe bays of his childhood. Gerry died in 1995 but I know what he’d think of this fiasco.
The clock cannot be turned back, no matter how hard we try, but the exigencies of modern times can be challenged, especially as we learn from our mistakes. Corfiots, other Greeks and foreigners who love the island have learnt that uncontrolled and insensitive development has taken a serious toll on Corfu and its environment.
We also know short-term gain by the few at the expense of the many is not acceptable in a small island community. Many in Corfu and elsewhere have already raised their voices against the development of Erimitis. We should continue to do so loudly until the situation is resolved in favour of Corfu and no one will ever turn their back, muttering “carbuncles”, on the enchanting headland of the Hermit.
Gerald left Corfu as a boy in 1939 and returned as a man in 1960, not without trepidation. He said: “There is always an element of risk in returning to a place in which you were happy.” But Corfu worked its magic once again, and Gerry was overjoyed to be back.The later Sixties began casting a shadow over him, however. He was dismayed to come across so much plastic on the beaches and offended by the unsightly developments at Paleokastritsa, long one of the island’s peaceful beauty spots, which now reminded him of a “Greek Margate”.Fast-forward to today, and the undisturbed nature area being threatened is a headland on the northeast coast known as Erimitis, or “the Hermit”, referring to a local fable about a man who lived there as a recluse after his daughter was kidnapped by pirates. It is accessible only by foot or by sea, and the human touch there has been light, with traces of centuries-old buildings, wells and a quarry. Otherwise the dense evergreen maquis is punctuated with bright pebble beaches, brackish lakes and marshes teeming with life. Home to otters, orchids and magnificent strawberry trees, the area is also rich in waterfowl and raptors. Locals and tourists take pleasure in walking (or running!) the steep narrow paths and swimming in the clear warm waters beyond the shore.Over the years Erimitis has attracted artists, writers and naturalists. Edward Lear was known to visit the area, and Nikos Ghikas, one of Greece’s greatest painters, loved it so much he built a house and lived there from 1969. More recently the botanist David Bellamy has led students and fellow naturalists “in the footsteps of Gerald Durrell” to discover and delight in the fauna and flora.This natural paradise, however, is in great danger.
The Greek government has sold the headland to an American property developer, NCH Capital, which plans to transform it into a tourist resort. Thus, one of the most beautiful and least developed areas of the Mediterranean is about to be bulldozed for what will be one of the biggest development projects in the history of the Ionian islands. Viewed in a satellite image, Erimitis is a tiny green jewel of 500 acres nestling between a drab inland countryside and the bright blue sea. NCH now has the freehold on 120 acres and plans to sprawl its “tourist village” over 45 acres, with nine acres of buildings. Bafflingly, there seems to have been little consideration of the effect this development would have on the wider infrastructure of roads, water supply and rubbish collection, already stretched to breaking point in many parts of the island. 
One example, as every visitor to Corfu over the past few years can sadly corroborate, is the piles of rubbish along the roads. A few concerned citizens have made the municipality of Corfu well aware of the situation, but little action has been taken. Imagine the pressure a huge complex at Erimitis would add. And what about the effect on the responsible and sustainable tourist industry that has grown up here over the past 40 years? New and returning visitors bring profits to the local people and tax revenue to the government. They come to see and experience the beauty and tranquillity of the region, not to be crammed together in a holiday complex that could be anywhere in the world. It is difficult to imagine that such an extensive development could be sufficiently site-sensitive as not to render a much wider area disagreeable to tourists and the locals. If people start to go elsewhere, the local economy will suffer and, in turn, the community.Then there’s the impact on faunal biodiversity: the eradication of a unique and fantastic array of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates. 
It is not surprising that local opinion has come out strongly against this development, regardless of political affiliation. The regional authority of the Ionian islands, backed by local residents, appealed to the Greek Supreme Court against the sale of Erimitis. Syriza, at that time the main opposition party and now the party in power, protested that the sale was “illegal, unconstitutional and in breach of international law”. Inexplicably, both challenges were dismissed. Gerald wrote to the Greek prime minister in 1968: “I do hope the necessary authorities in Athens give more power to people on the spot, who are as worried as I am at the all too rapid and tasteless development on the island.” I do not know if Gerry received a reply, but exactly 50 years later I wrote to Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, voicing my objection to the development at Erimitis ... and did not receive an answer. Gerry avoided Corfu in the 1970s, but came back with me in 1983, wanting desperately to show me the natural places and the wildlife that had made his childhood so special. That is when I fell in love with the island. We returned in 1986, with family and friends, to an old villa in Barbati, where we feasted on Corfiot specialities, swam at night in the tepid, moonlit waters and took leisurely boat trips up and down the coast. On these excursions Gerry would turn his back to the island as we motored by the vast new hotel complexes that scarred the landscape, waiting for our signal that we’d passed these “carbuncles”. Then he would turn and gaze quietly at the olive and cypress-clad hills he remembered so well and at the bright horseshoe bays of his childhood. 
Gerry died in 1995 but I know what he’d think of this fiasco.The clock cannot be turned back, no matter how hard we try, but the exigencies of modern times can be challenged, especially as we learn from our mistakes. Corfiots, other Greeks and foreigners who love the island have learnt that uncontrolled and insensitive development has taken a serious toll on Corfu and its environment.We also know short-term gain by the few at the expense of the many is not acceptable in a small island community. Many in Corfu and elsewhere have already raised their voices against the development of Erimitis. We should continue to do so loudly until the situation is resolved in favour of Corfu and no one will ever turn their back, muttering “carbuncles”, on the enchanting headland of the Hermit.
A link to Lee Durrell's petition Save 'The Durrells' Coastline from Developers

Back numbers