Saturday, 29 August 2015

'...στοιχεία ερωτικά, σκωπτικά και πολιτικά ανατρεπτικά...'

A catalogue on the internet for Aristeidis Metallinos` Ο Αριστείδης Μεταλληνός I left Ano Korakiana in June telling Angeliki that by September I would bring her a rough draft - on paper. In England talking to several curators of art galleries I came away convinced that what was needed was not a hard copy - yet. I asked my son, Richard, to design a website. Yesterday he showed me his draft for a front page...

...but to get it right "You have to have high quality photo's of each sculpture.
 "Can you come to Corfu?"
Richard will bring his camera to the museum in October. I hope he can work through the works not already photographed by Rob Groove who may be able to do more.
Self-portrait or self-carving of the laic sculptor (photo: Rob Groove)
"I need speed lights and a roll of white paper"
"Hm? Can you bring your own lights?"
"Maybe. Can't you find some in Corfu?"
"Maybe. I can let you know."
"I guess we'll need to photograph about 50 to 60 pieces a day. Can they be moved?"
I imagine doing this vital process the same way Angeliki, Lin and I with help from her parents worked up the draft catalogue we made in May, listing and numbering each piece with measurements and whether it's stone or marble.
Lin and Angeliki working on the catalogue
Every on of Aristeidis' pieces has been photographed by the artist's nephew Anastasios Nikolouzos, Tassos - an invaluable record, basic to the project.
A sample of Tassos' images of the carvings

There are the lists made 10 years ago by Angeliki M, in Greek and English, recording the inscriptions on each work. Now all pieces in the collection are renumbered - chronologically - these words need to be digitised and linked to each new picture, bot for their explanatory value and to ensure identification.
Letter to Angeliki M: Αγαπητοί Αγγελική. Linda and I send love and best wishes to your family and hope you are all well. I have attached letters to me from Eurydice Antzoulatou-Retsila who knows as much as anyone outside Ano Korakiana about your grandfather. She is happy to write another article for the ‘catalogue’ we are working on about Aristeidis Metallinos. She retires from her university in the Peloponnese this month and she will be coming to Corfu, where she also worked, to visit friends and, she hopes, to visit you, your family and the museum when she is here.  My son Richard Baddeley is working on a website about the sculptor. This website will record all the works with photographs of each carving. My son says that he needs high quality photographs like those created by our friend Rob Groove from Ipsos who visited the museum this May to make an image of ‘The Saint of Preveza’ for Richard Pine’s book about Greece which will be published in October. Our son will be coming to Corfu for a week in order - with yours and your family’s permission - to take high quality photographs for the Aristeidis Metallinos catalogue which he will be putting on the website catalogue he has started to design. After we returned to England in June I asked several museum and art gallery curators about our plan to publish a catalogue. They confidently advised me that it would be far better to have a web-based catalogue containing the artist’s work and articles about him.  The advantage of this is that we can have swift free access across the world to Aristeidis’ works. The website can include texts including ones by Eurydice Antzοulatοu-Retsila, by your father and by me and you. We can also include video clips and sound recordings in English and Greek that can be accessed with a click of a computer key. People with smart phones can find out about the sculptor. A web-based catalogue has the additional advantage that it can be easily re-edited as new knowledge about your grandfather or more detailed images become available.  I hope you will not be disappointed that I am not coming back to Corfu with a ‘book’, but I am now convinced that an Aristeidis Metallinos website is the best way forward in bringing the artist to a larger audience, and certainly does not preclude a book type catalogue. If a ‘hard-copy’ catalogue is wanted for a particular exhibition of the sculptor’s work at some time in the future, this can be constructed from data in pictures and words from the internet. We are looking forward so much to being back in the village and to seeing our friends again. I don’t know exactly when Eurydice arrives on the island but as you see – in the attached letters - I have given her details of how to contact you. I hope she will be welcome in Ano Korakiana.  The work I am currently involved with is writing the English and Greek words on each of the sculptures....
First page of 15 pages - spaces await recording of transcriptions and, where needed, explanatory notes

Friday, 21 August 2015

Agiotfest 2015

For a seventh year my friend Paul McGovern runs his music festival at Agios Ioannis in the centre of Corfu...

*** *** ***
This is a quote from page 12 of the first chapter - The Ploys of Cunning - from the the 1978 book by the French scholars Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant called Les ruses de l’intelligence: la mètis des Grecs, translated later into English...

Antilochus won by skill, or trickery or cheating; cunning or...?
With this the horses, responding to his threat, speeded up for a while, and soon the steadfast Antilochus saw a narrow place in the sunken road ahead, where a stream swollen by winter rain had eroded the track and hollowed out the course. Menelaus drove on assuming no one could overtake, but Antilochus veered alongside, almost off the track. Then Menelaus called to him, in alarm: ‘Rein in Antilochus, that’s recklessness! The track’s wider further on. Pass there if you can, mind my chariot, don’t wreck us both!’ He shouted loud enough, but Antilochus, pretending not to hear, plied his whip and drove the more wildly. They ran side by side a discus length, as far as a young athlete testing his strength can hurl it from the shoulder, then Menelaus held back, and his pair gave way, fearing the teams might collide and overturn the light chariots, hurling their masters in the dust, for all their eagerness to win. Red-haired Menelaus stormed at Antilochus: ‘You’re a pest Antilochus, we Achaeans credited you with more sense. All the same, you’ll not win a prize, when I force you to answer on oath to this.’ The Iliad Bk XXIII:362-447 The chariot race
I was at Euston Station at 9.15pm on Thursday when I saw - for seconds - on a big Sky screen above the concourse, the news that Tsipras had resigned...

So for the third time in eight months, Greece will hold a national vote. In late January after SYRIZA won a famous victory their new leader proclaimed 'the future has begun' telling the electorate...
"You are an example of history which is changing... Your mandate is undoubtedly cancelling the bailouts of austerity and destruction...The troika for Greece is the thing of the past"
Then this June Tsipras won a 'No' referendum testing the population's  opinion of the terms of the third bail-out demanded by EU finance ministers - the third Memorandum of Understanding. Accounts suggest the result astonished him, and many others. Now Tsipras calls a third election -Sunday Sept 20th I've read - gambling on a good chance of winning again, despite the inevitable break-away from SYRIZA of MPs who see his acceptance of the third memorandum as a betrayal...and, the unlikely possibility, that, as the Greek constitution requires, other political parties are able to command sufficient majority in the Hellenic parliament to form a government without an election...Yannis Varoufakis, Finance minister of Greece, still an MP, resigned from the government over his former colleague's acceptance of the third Memo...
'Tsipras made a decision on that night of the referendum not only to surrender to the troika but also to implement the terms of surrender on the basis that it is better that a progressive government implement terms of surrender that it despises than leave it to the local stooges of the troika, who would implement the same terms of surrender with enthusiasm...This mutation I have already witnessed. Those in our party/government who underwent it, then turned against those who refused to mutate, the result being a split in the party that our people, the courageous voters who voted No, did not deserve'
Long ago I learned why 'many-travelled' Odysseus 'turning one way, then the next' has a special place in the pantheon of Greek heroes - renowned for his brilliance, guile, and versatility - polytropos πολυτρόπως - known by the epithet Odysseus the Cunning (mētis μῆτις - cunning intelligence). Richard Pine wrote in March:
Cunning is integral to Greek integrity, hence the disfavour it incurs from Anglo- and Teutonic mindsets...Greece is playing the game of her life, and how she plays the game despite holding a folding hand, will determine the history of the coming future. Being geographically small, Greece and Greeks value the classical merit of cunning - the talent of metis, referring in Greek to wisdom or craft or nous, and to the goddess of wisdom and prudence - η Μήτις. Cunning in Hellenic culture stands higher than it does in ours (tho' Greeks have seen perfidious Albion as a mirror). We are more wary of cunning. It can be ruefully respected, but also detested - no part of our understanding of integrity. Of necessity it's different in Greece.
Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant published a book in 1978 called Les ruses de l’intelligence: la mètis des Grecs, translated in 1991 as Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society.
...There is no doubt that mêtis is a type of intelligence and of thought, a way of knowing; it implies a complex but very coherent body of mental attitudes and intellectual behaviour which combine flair, wisdom, forethought, subtlety of mind, deception, resourcefulness, vigilance, opportunism, various skills, and experience acquired over the years. It is applied to situations which are transient, shifting, disconcerting and ambiguous, situations which do not lend themselves to precise measurement, exact calculation or rigorous logic...

One critic of the original book wrote on
La métis, c'est le flair, la connaissance oblique et tordue qui permet de comprendre une situation. Une forme d'intelligence pratique, non analytique. C'est le contraire du savoir théorique, la sophia. C'est l'esprit de finesse opposé à l'esprit de géométrie.
Detienne et Vernant nous présentent cette forme d'intelligence pratique au travers de l'histoire des dieux dans la mythologie grecque. C'est une lecture utile à une époque où nous sommes dirigés par des crânes d'oeufs qui prétendent appliquer leurs théories partout et en tout lieu sans se soucier du contexte et de la réalité.
...from p.16 of Detienne's and Vernant's book...

*** *** ***
Like the serpent that wrapped itself around Laocoön...well not really. Our wisteria, ever ready to turn feral, had tangled itself up with our balcony and wind vane - the one designed by my stepfather showing two dogs, Genie the whippet and Sukie the Jack Russell - we owned long ago, brought to Greece from mum's home in the Highlands, but Mark saw the problem and sorted it and phoned us from Ano Korakiana an exquisite image of the sky as blue as her flag over the sky of beloved Greece...
208 Democracy Street (photo: Mark Jacks)

Sunday, 9 August 2015

'Born in debt'

'The compromise to save the nation' Greek cartoon 1893
My brother George Pericles B sent me this cartoon on Facebook. Nancy Katsalis and Aleko Damaskinos sent me translations of the old Greek. George thought the bemedalled beribboned figure on the right represented Germany.
"Nothing changes, eh?" Not quite so. I think it's Russia.
Aristeidis Metallinos, laic sculptor of Ano Korakiana, 'For faith and country' 1981 (Cat 118, marble relief 40 x 59)

I've been told this. I've read it, over and over; that Modern Greece, founded in 1828, was "born in debt". Yet most debates, interviews, editorials and op-eds I've read and heard and watched in recent years seem informed only by events of the 15 years since Greece joined the eurozone, rather than by those of the preceding 127 years.
Hellenic Parliament Monday 30 Oct 1893 Charilaos Trikoupis “Unfortunately, my dearest gentlemen, we went bankrupt.” 

In 1893 - date of the cartoon - the government of Charilaos Trikoupis declared bankruptcy. In return for debt relief, partial control was imposed by Greece's creditors - France, the Netherlands, Russia and Britain; all eschewing interference in the cat's cradle of Greece's internal finances. The government, over half of whose revenue, in 1893, went to service loans, was, as everyone knows, beset by clientelism - a complicated and deeply embedded part of Greek society....
Heinz Richter in The Globalist, June 2015: Unless one understands the history and the manifold ways in which the clientelistic system has metastasized, one has no chance of improving Greece’s prospects. Alas, most Europeans do not understand the phenomenon of clientelism and react in a peculiar way – such as the oft-made claim of 'lazy' Greeks.
Come to think of it, inside the EU, it is only the Austrians who – due to their past as a Balkan power – have some understanding of what’s really going on inside Greece’s structures. The other EU nations simply project European political ideas and ethical principles onto Greece and the other Balkan countries. They lack the understanding that these ideas and principles - noble and/or commonsensical as they sound - are alien to the society and the political culture of Greece.
After the national bankruptcy of 1893 - Greece's third - fruitless negotiations continued for years. In the cartoon the sack born by Hellas bears the words:
The compromise to save the nation - 99% with an eternal monopoly under foreign control of markets in tobacco, raisins, bread, wine, meat, olive oil.
and on the basket:
Loan 850.000.000 (drachma)
Those products listed are the pre-industrial exports upon which the Greek economy largely depended from the 1850s.
19th century Greek government had a weak financial system - persistent budget deficits; high debt to GDP ratio. Lenders - France, the Netherlands, Russia and Britain - demanded that Greece make, as a condition for loans, major institutional changes in her public finances - changes relating to the power, the credibility and the bureaucratic capacity to tax sufficiently to cover the government's expenditures and undertake budget reform. Plus ça Greek <Όσο πιο πολύ αλλάζουν τα πράγματα, τόσο πιο πολύ μένουν ίδια>
Gerassimos Notaras, head archivist, historical archive, National Bank of Greece said...
From the beginning, our state had no other choice than to live on credit. We were born in debt.
A wise writer, Athina Rachel Tsangari, in the Greek film Attenberg – which Lin and I liked a lot, watching it twice in as many weeks – says, through the mouth of one of its main characters, the architect Spiro, as he gazes over an ekistical Doxiades settlement laid out in Euboea, muttering to his daughter...
bourgeois arrogance…especially for a country that skipped the industrial age altogether…from shepherds to bulldozers…from bulldozers to mines, and from mines, straight to petit-bourgeois hysteria…we built an industrial colony on top of sheep pens and thought we were making a revolution.”
Tsipras as Sisyphus ~ David Simonds The Observer 1/2/15

Half the time Greece has been a nation it has been in default - five times since 1800 - in 1826 (prior to independent in 1829), in 1843, 1860, 1893, 1932 and now.
The first default was on the loans that financing the independence movement. Much of that money went into the pockets of middleman between Greece and London where the loan was floated. The 1843 default arose from spending an international loan raised in 1832. In 1860 British and French forces occupied Piraeus to enforce repayment of the 1843 loan, causing a default that went on being negotiated until 1878. In 1893 Greece was bailed out under strict conditions imposed by an International Financial Control Commission also called the International Committee for Greek Debt Management...
From April 1898 the International Financial Control Commission (IFCC) was established in Athens; ...initially termed International Control Commission, but despite the change of name it was known as 'Control'. The commission consisted of six members, representatives of the Great Powers (now including an expansionist Germany)...revenues from the monopoly of salt, oil, matches, decks (sic), cigarette paper, tobacco, paper stamps and the tariffs of the port of Piraeus passed under its control. These and other revenues, if the need arose, were disposed of to serve the country's loan obligations, while the Commission had the capacity to intervene in various sectors of the civil services in order to ensure the sufficient and, in time, payment of economic obligations to creditors...
It was during this period that Greece had both joined - in 1867 - and been expelled - in 1908 - from The Latin Monetary Union - an entity I've only just learned about. The Greek state has been in default for the following periods 1826–1842, 1843–1859, 1860–1878, 1894–1897, 1932–1964, and 2010 to now. It makes the present seem a small space tied in my impressions to the tiny duration of my association with Greece - since my first visit in 1957.
Χοινὸν τῶν Ἀχαιῶν 500 -146 BCE - a classical economic, monetary and political union

In trying to understand what's happening in Greece I have to know more history. The present is always confusing - the experience of an intelligent ant in the middle of a winding human footpath. Rise above the grass and gravel to make out the path - its scale and direction - thing become clearer. Grasping this picture of Greece - born in debt - and I'm clearer why Alexis Tsipras hasn't resigned, any more than did other Hellenic PM's, after declaring defeat, default and bankruptcy. I realise too that I've so little understanding of the different positions and trajectories of the EU leaders who stand together in opposing Greece and overwhelming SYRIZA, the 'big idea' of this quite new Coalition of the Radical Left, after its election victory in January - so few months ago. Prof Jan-Werner Müller, in the August London Review of Books, illuminates my understanding of the political leadership of the EU. Rule-Breaking:
Never before have the struggles among national elites been as visible to the public as they were in the early weeks of this summer, when Greece almost left – or was made to leave – the Eurozone. Never before has an assertion of national popular will, as expressed in the Greek referendum of 5 July, been flouted so thoroughly and so quickly by the enforcers of European economic orthodoxy. (There was an interval of two and a half years between the French and Dutch ‘No’ to the EU treaty in the spring of 2005 and the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, which retained most of the constitution the French and Dutch had rejected, in December 2007.) Never before have the flaws of the Eurozone been so clearly exposed. We can expect more Greek drama before too long...
In August 2015, Greece is once again under strict foreign scrutiny, its government conceding authority over much of Greek policymaking to the eurozone, signing up to a 29 page Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a three-year ESM (Economic stability mechanism) programme to establish a system of quarterly reviews of the reforms by the troika of creditors – the European commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Martin Rowson in The Guardian 20 Feb 2015

The government commits to consult and agree with the European commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund on all actions relevant for the achievement of the objectives of the memorandum of understanding before these are finalised and legally adopted. (p.1 - 11/8/15)
Meanwhile the summer fires of Greece seem no longer in the news. Tsipras remains popular though once the third MoU starts to bite he will call a general election - before October tho' there doesn't have to be one until 2019. Refugees from Syria crowd Kos.

17th August 2015 - Varoufakis on the Third Memorandum of Understanding - the MoU annotated by Varoufakis....
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded 
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed 
Everybody knows that the war is over 
Everybody knows the good guys lost Everybody knows the fight was fixed The poor stay poor, the rich get rich That's how it goes Everybody knows ...
*** *** ***
A case for Handsworth Helping Hands? Not really.

More like Handsworth people at their best. A man prone in the Food Bazaar carpark at the junction of Heathfield and Villa Road. No. He hadn't 'fallen among thieves' but in a short time (at least while I was there) there were three Samaritans - an Englishman an Irishman and a West Indian lady in different ways giving succour. One phoned an ambulance, one talked with him about the 'dangers of the drink', and another got his name and where he was from - citizen of a city of Eastern Europe - and we discussed if he was drunk or on medication or both, and then, in minutes, two Asian paramedics arrived and gently helped him into their ambulance...
"Come along my friend"
"Bye bye" we said "Good luck!" as our man disappeared into the friendly clinical interior of the ambulance.
We three introduced ourselves to one another; shook hands; went about our daily business. I've seen this kind of thing on many occasions in the forty years I've lived in Handsworth and Lozells.
*** *** ***
My parsnips give me pleasure - their germinating, growing, harvesting, preparing and eating...their weight, their feel, their taste and smell.
Lin made us a delectable parsnip soup "It tastes of Christmas"

I have been so delighted at growing things on my allotment. My confidence increases with my knowledge. I learn. In July and August I've planted aubergines from seedlings, turnips, beetroot and swedes from seed, raspberries, tayberries, gooseberries - fruit plants bought for a bargain from Aldi, tomatoes given by a neighbouring gardener. My vine thrives; next year I may assay a trellis for it. Winter cabbage seeds are in the ground.
Oliver helps plant Winter Cabbage seeds

Aubergines - at risk from slugs hence the pellets
Beetroots - variable success

Five summer Raspberries, two Tayberries, one autumn Raspberry, one Gooseberry - a fruit cage will follow

Swedes will have to be thinned

A neighbour gave me nine tomato plants
My hardy black grape planted in August 2011 now promises a rich crop, as well as shading the shed veranda

...and vital to all this, my friend Winnie who grafts on the plot and does more housekeeping inside its 200 square metres than I. Together we plan the plot...
Working - Winnie, Ollie and Dennis

...adding, to support the spreading black grape vine, a trellis in front of the shed...

...and my preoccupation with understanding and trying make compost continues - vigorously. It's in fact wrong to say I'm 'making' compost. I embrace Stanley Whitehead's Gardener's Earth, but learning about the 17th century polymath John Evelyn, I've got a reprint of his essay A Philosophical Discourse of Earth, Relating to the Culture and Improvement of it for Vegetation, and the Propagation of Plants, &c. as it was presented to the Royal Society, April 29. 1675. London: John Martyn 1676.

Like thousands before me I'm inventing my own wheel. Type 'composting' into my search engine I get 14,800,000 hits in .44 seconds. Information about composting is overwhelming.
"Yeah" says Lin "but Google won't give you all those hits!"
They come from academia, through to the experience of single gardeners over the world in myriad languages; on film, scientific papers, text, images, tables... in Greek κοπρόχωμα. My understanding is that for all the interest and popularity of the subject no-one has yet been able to make compost. All they can do is attempt to speed up what has been done by nature since the arrival of organic life on this planet. I've now cracked the challenge of how to get perfect compost. I'll go back five years in a time machine (instruction on making and buying time machines on page 94) and stack up my garden waste; return to the present and my compost will ready and waiting, or perhaps everything has aged 50 years (or whatever), my allotment is a car park and everyone's speaking esperanto...
Compost bays A, B and C on Plot 14

Back numbers