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Saturday, 10 February 2018

Hannah's afternoon

Vertumnus by Giuseppe Arcimboldo
I spent a Good Sunday with our grand-daughter. Hannah stayed overnight with us, because our grandson was poorly. I've got to know Oliver quite well. We’ve been on expeditions. We talk. 
My stepfather long ago said “I don’t like children while they’re still small animals. I like conversation”
First Hannah and I and Oscar dog went up to the Soho Loop with my bicycle and, placing a cushion on the rear rack, carried her into town on the back – stopping now and then to look at things – she holding on the saddle stem; dismounting when going over a hump-back on the towpath.
“Are you OK, Hannah? Just shout if you want me to stop. OK? Hannah! OK?”
“Yes”
Things and things. Flowerless, leafless, winter-quiet shrubs. Trains rushing past, wheels at eye-level, seen through railings beside the towpath.
“Do you hear the rails singing before the train comes by?”
Litter in the brown canal.
"See how it floats so slowly. Look, here’s a narrow boat coming”
We watch its slow progress towards us.
“Wave, Hannah”
Passengers wave back.
"See the geese! Look there's a duck and a drake, the one with the shiny green neck"
Hannah watches and considers.
“Look at these bricks?" I say "Between them, mortar, so they stick together. Go on. Touch"
Hannah isn’t – yet - asking “Why?” all the time. 
How does she take in these things?
Under the bridge near Gas Street Basin we go ‘whoo’ to warn, but also to hear our voices echo.
On the slopes over feeder canals I ask Hannah to dismount, then get on again for the rush down the other side. Oscar runs ahead, and lingers behind – exploring with his nose. If we spy another dog in the distance I summon Oscar with my whistle, and lean my Brompton down, so he can jump in the pannier until the other dog has passed; much fierce growling from Oscar in his safe berth; tail wagging if it’s a bitch.
In town we work our way eastward. On Temple Row a road sweeper with spinning brushes drives slowly by capturing litter, sucking it in. We follow it awhile. Another manual trolley is pushed by a man with a broom, working niches. He points out the machine to Hannah 
"We call them beetles"
We stroll over to the St Philip's Cathedral where I take Hannah to gaze up at the Burne-Jones Last Judgment.
Outside again, we window-shop, talking about, exclaiming, at what we see, especially in the Great Western Arcade.
On Colmore Row at 200 Degrees we sit outside having chocolate and an apple drink and chocolate cake, Oscar in his pannier removed from the bike, cosy at our feet, blanketed with my tweed gilet.
“This is nice, Hannah”
No-one else was outside. Too chilly. I was warm with the happiness of my grand-daughter’s company.
We walked northward over Great Charles Street, Queensway, down Newhall Street on the bicycle, where we turned down dark steps to the canal towpath, to walk westwards up past Farmers Bridge Locks, where the path is often cobbled, the brick blue. Approaching the penultimate locks, I explained the way they worked, both of us peering down mud scummy walls into grey water.
“Let’s open a lock gate!’
After a while Hannah caught on to the difference between a gate that was impossible to open and ones that even she pushing and pulling on the big paddle beam can slowly open. Then, as easily, close.
“See! If the water’s the same level on either side the gate will open.”
After three locks, one half-full where the gate will not yield to her, I’m sure she’s got the idea.
From Gas Street we cycled back the way we’d come along the Birmingham Mainline, turn north at Soho Loop, now and then summoning old Oscar to catch up with us, and so back to the van on Clissold Street to drive to Victoria Jubilee Allotments to check the sleeping plot.
Hannah on Plot 14 on Sunday

Hannah's 3rd birthday on 25th July 2017 - Simon, Hannah, Oliver, Linda and Oscar (picture: Jan Bowman)

“Do you remember what it was like in Summer?”
Has she got her head around the four seasons, given how little time she’s been on the earth?


Tuesday, 23 January 2018

A paper on Aristeidis Metallinos

Aristeidis Metallinos, laic sculptor of Ano Korakiana (1908-1987)
Aristeidis MetallinosΑριστείδης Μεταλληνός - is known to few. Villagers of Ano Korakiana older than 30 remember talking to him as children.  Aristeidis' son, Andrea, died in 2016. We attended his crowded funeral at Agios Athanasios, the cathedral of Ano Korakiana. We're honoured to be friends of Maria,  Andrea's sister, daughter of Aristeidis, also her son, Tassos; also of Angeliki, the sculptor's grand-daughter and her mother, Anna, Andrea's widow.
Aristeidis Metallinos was a craftsman of many skills, who became, in the last part of his long life, a sculptor - one of the island's talents. He died 20 years before we came to have a home in his village. Six years after our arrival, we were invited to visit the museum in which Andrea and Anna lived and in which the sculptor's work is currently displayed. Few others, Greeks or foreigners, have been inside.  It was once described as a 'museum', but last year that name was removed by workman in 2017, leaving Andrea's plaque on the front of the house, attesting it as his father's place of work.
To make his work known, a project in which we have faith, I submitted a Wikipedia entry in English and Greek. Two years ago, Angeliki, Lin and I, with Andrea's approval, made a draft catalogue of every work in the 'museum'.

With Andreas Metallinos' approval, Angeliki and Linda cataloguing his father's work 

Richard Pine was permitted to use one of the sculptor's marble friezes - The Saint of Preveza - in his book Greece Through Irish Eyes. In 2016 our son Richard made and administers a website owned and paid for by the family.
I have shown photos of many of the works to interested Corfiot artists and writers, Greek and British - Maria Strani-Potts, Jim Potts, Richard Pine, Katherine Wise. Also Corfiot historian John Petsalis author of Corfu Museum on-line, and his colleague photographer, Effie Stathia; the cultural anthropologist, Dr Alexandra Moschovi at the University of Sunderland. Irini Savanni, art historian and curator at the University of Athens, who I met in Ano Korakiana, her village. Aristeidis Metallinos is mentioned on Ano Korakiana's website and blog authored by Thanassis Spingos.
The first noting of the sculptor outside his village was by Giannis M. Maris - welcome, but brief, in a collection of artists' biographies published in 1978. The catalogue Angeliki, Linda and I made of the works in the museum in Ano Korakiana shows just 25 sculptures completed by that year.
Giannis M. Maris (1978) "Βιογραφικό - Αριστείδης Ζαχ. Μεταλληνός", in Απάνθισμα Γραμμάτων και Τεχνών, Athens, pp. 611–617











A much fuller paper of 23 pages illustrated with black and white photos of the artist's work was written by Professor Eurydice Antzoulatou-Retsila (she told me, in a letter, she preferred 'Eurydice' to the Greeklish 'Evridiki') published in Myriovivlos, vol. 7, Athens, pp. 37-47 - two years before the artist's death. 'Corfiot themes in the craft of the laic sculptor Aristeidi Metallinou'.
Ευρυδίκη Αντζουλάτου-Ρετσίλα (1985) “Θέματα Κερκυραϊκής λαoγραφίας στo έργo τoυ λαϊκoύ λιθoγλύπτη Αριστείδη Μεταλληνoύ” στο Μυριόβιβλoς, τεύχ. 7, Αθήνα, σελ. 37-47
Maria and Jim Potts have generously donated a 'free translation' of this paper's abstract:
The laic sculptor (sculptor of the people) Aristeidis Metallinos (1908-1987), from the Corfu village of Ano Korakiana, provides us with a common example of a folk artist or craftsman, for whom the need to earn a living pushes him/her in the direction of an occupation involving a variety of forms of traditional artisanal handicraft-work, until reaching the final stage of free and unconstrained expression of artistic inspiration through, e.g. sculpture in stone (in the case of Metallinos).
In the course of his difficult life, he practised as a wood-carver, a professional shoe-maker. He built fireplaces and ovens, carved and chiselled olive press mill-stones and hand grinding-mills.
At the advanced age of 67, he occupied himself as a sculptor carving in stone, declaring that he was self-taught. He thus realised a long-standing ambition to create and depict different forms of life which were slowly disappearing, as he had understood from his own experience of life.  His works of art demonstrate the true meaning of laic folk-art and provide visual testimony and evidence of aspects of Corfu’s culture and way of life, particularly in the north west of Corfu.
The inspiration for Metallinos’ sculptures was the folklore of the island. They are presented here for the first time. They were created in the period between 1975 and 1983. Two types are distinguishable: bas-relief sculptures, and statues, carved from white Kozani marble or Corfu stone.
They depict agricultural occupations* (milking a goat, a village woman carrying a load, the village olive press), traditional crafts and professions (the shoemaker/cobbler, the milkman, the village baker, the blacksmith), domestic activities (grinding with a hand-mill, a village woman kneading dough, a peasant woman carrying water), traditional handicrafts (a peasant woman with a distaff, another with a shepherd), villagers wearing traditional costumes (‘My mother’, an elderly man from Korakiana, a peasant woman in formal costume, a Corfiot).
NB If the word peasant’ is not felt appropriate now, substitute ‘villager’.
*I've recorded several of these. See 'Ano Korakiana in relief'

I am looking for ways of getting a translation of the whole paper – but without paying.
One of Metallinos' latest works - self-portrait of him at work 1984  (stone S 74 x 69 Cat 190) Photo: Richard Baddeley)

Monday, 22 January 2018

Up to date on Black Patch Park

"The conundrum of the Black Patch" Cllr Steve Eling, Sandwell Council Leader, 23rd Feb 2017 

I am hoping that these are significant dates in the restoration of Black Patch Park - useful to us, The Friends of Black Patch Park (FoBPP), and to anyone new to our campaign, begun 14 years ago, to stop the decommissioning of the park in favour of light industry, and bring people back to the park and its surroundings.

A facebook Messenger letter to me from Cllr Darren Cooper in late July 2015
Hi Simon it was good to see Michael Chaplin in Black patch, I'm just sorry I was not aware of this until it appeared in the news. I have made many attempts in the past to get a solution to the area including the historical Soho foundry. I'm still keen to look at options. However this just seems to hit a brick wall. I had extensive meeting with the Lunar society all to know end. I'd be happy to meet with you to look at options if you contact my office on 01215695666. In any case finding a solution with Council money alone is a non runner given the cuts we have to make. B'ham are in a worse place than Sandwell so can't see that making a difference.’
My reply on behalf of the Friends:  'Thanks Darren. It is such a tricky wicked problem - one you clearly understand. I will indeed be in touch. You know at the moment that Hayley Insley, your senior regeneration officer, is looking at Eastside's offer but which involved losing a third of the Patch. We are bound by our constitution and belief in the park to resist this while ready to be participate in all attempts to find a way through in these horrible times for local government! Kindest regards, S'
[Note: On 16th June 2014 FoBPP had an interesting meeting in the Soho Foundry Pub with Tony Deep MBE of Eastside Foods who expressed interest in seeking permission for a company called Smart Waste to construct an autoclaving plant on part of Black Patch Park]
The notes are from a facebook timeline:
Cllr Darren Cooper 1964-2016


A meeting with Cllr Darren Cooper, Leader of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
On 16th March 2016 - yesterday - Ron Collins, our chair, Phil Crumpton and Simon Baddeley, met with the Leader of Sandwell MBC, Cllr Darren Cooper at the Council House in Oldbury. We talked for over half an hour. The best that came from the meeting was Cllr Cooper's view that the area surrounding Black Patch Park could be rezoned for housing, instead of, as it is and has been for over a decade, for light industry. [Darren Cooper died 10 days after our meeting]
The circulation of a report on rezoning by FoBPP
Our report 'Bringing People Back to Black Patch' was approved at The Friends of Black Patch Park's last Committee Meeting on 1 December at the Soho Foundry Tavern.

First meeting with Cllr Steve Eling, new Leader of Sandwell
At the meeting between Cllr Steve Eling and the FoBPP on 23 Feb 2017, Cllr Eling said he was impressed at the comprehensiveness of the report that the Friends had produced, recommending that people be brought back to Black Patch Park as the only solution to its neglect and blighting. His Cabinet had walked around the park a few weeks earlier. He had followed our case. He agreed with our plan and its arguments for rezoning the area for new housing around the park and beyond. This, the Leader agreed, was the only way to resolve what he described as the ‘conundrum of the Black Patch’ - a problem created by a prolonged series of failed piece-meal measures; in particular, a repetitive cycle of forced illegal entry, consequent trashing, expensive clearance, inadequate boundary securing and monitoring. “Black Patch” he declared “has been historically disadvantaged by its lack of connectivity. But there’s a new connectivity which changes the fortunes of the Black Patch”. There would be no solution to the ‘Black Patch conundrum’ without a restorative strategy for this part of the Borough.


March/April 2017 - The Temporary Transit Site laid out between Avery and Boulton Roads
To find a solution to a borough-wide problem of travellers trespass on public green space Sandwell MBC permits the laying out of a secure temporary site for travellers so that within 24 hours, the authority can, under public order legislation, transfer trespassers on its parks to that site. FoBPP expressed concern, objecting, in a letter from our Hon Sec, that placing a Temporary Traveller's Transit site next to the last remaining homes near Black Patch and in the centre of an area that a month before the Council Leader had described as the 'sustainable housing area',  blocked plans to restore Black Patch Park as a 'community of place'. Cllr Steve Eling responded with a 3-page letter.

August 2017 Sandwell MBC Cabinet agree on rezoning the Black Patch area for housing
Cllr Steve Eling, Leader of Sandwell MBC, spoke with four of the Friends of Black Patch Park, in the gallery of the Council Chamber, just before chairing Cabinet - 3.20 pm 30th Aug. The question in our minds and on our lips and in the paper we submitted to the Council last year, is "Will the Council adopt what FoBPP have proposed for the Black Patch - the return of houses and therefore people to the land around the park?" Steve Eling says - I wrote down his words - "it's in hand. it will take time. A schematic will go out to consultation in October."
In the Visitors' Gallery at Sandwell Council House 

Second meeting with Cllr Steve Eling

On 7th Sept FoBPP met the Council Leader to seek his reassurance that plans for the restoration of the area were going ahead despite Friends' concerns about the obstacle posed by the temporary transit site sitting right opposite the park

A brief about where things stood for the Black Patch at the end of Summer 2017
In the last 18 months things have changed for the Black Patch – not only for the park but for its surrounding streets and small edging areas of land. In mid-2016 the Leader of Sandwell Council said that previous bets – few and far between - on the future of the Black Patch were off. Something serious needed doing for this area at the eastern end of the borough - neglected 30 years; blighted by the dispersal of all but a few of its surrounding residents; by a pragmatic council decision to decommission the park and rezone it for light industry, and by its spreading repute as an expedient place for flytipping. Councillor Darren Cooper declared to us, in his office on 16th March 2016, that things were going to change.
Diana Bancroft's long demolished childhood home off Foundry Lane overlooking Black Patch (with permission) 
His sudden death, within days of our meeting, did not interrupt that aspiration. Rather, a decision to restore Black Patch Park became part of Darren Cooper’s eulogy, repeated, with detail, at a meeting, on 23rd February 2017, with Sandwell’s new leader, Cllr Steve Eling. “The whole area” he declared from his predecessor’s chair “has been blighted by decades of piecemeal decisions”. Council strategies, having nothing to do with this area of the borough, have nudged the ‘Patch’ into an urban limbo – reminiscent of its status 150 years earlier, when none but the Romany would make a home on 10 feet of industrial embers threaded by two oily brooks beside barren rail embankments.’

Full Council Meeting on 16th Jan 2018 endorsed the decision of Sandwell's Cabinet
Well what do we think - after attending Full Council at Sandwell tonight? Throughout the proceedings we heard no mention of Black Patch. All rose to leave after near 2 hours.  "So what's happened?" we asked one another. It felt like an anti-climax, but then we met up with the Leader and colleagues in the Council Chamber lobby...The Rev Ash Barker of Winson Green asked Cllr Eling to help us understand why there'd been no mention of the Black Patch during the Council meeting. Cllr Eling replied "It's done! Council endorsed Cabinet's recommendation/ No-one objected" Our mood shifted upwards as other councillors came up to us to confirm our best hopes. We had actually not quite grasped that - but see the letter below from Suki Suthi-Nagra copied to our member, Phil Crumpton.
The Leader reassures the Rev Ash Barker on 16th Jan 2018


So what has been so far decided?
This is an email from Sandwell's manager of Democratic Services, officially copied to one of our members, Phil Crumpton, shortly before Sandwell MBC Full Council met on 16th Jan 2018 to endorse a proposition for the future of the Black Patch Area that had been put forward at a Sandwell MBC Cabinet meeting on 18th Oct 2017:
From: Suky Suthi-Nagra
Sent: 11 January 2018 09:32
To: Jan Britton CEO Sandwell MBC; Phil Crumpton FoBPP
Subject: RE: [The Friends of Black Patch Park] Perrott Street, Winson Green viewed from beneath... [IL0: UNCLASSIFIED]
Phil. Thank you for your email. I can confirm that the Council at its meeting to be held on 16 January 2018, will be receiving the minutes of the Cabinet held on 18 October 2017. You will recall that at this meeting in October, the Cabinet considered the Proposed Masterplan for Residential Development at Black Patch, Smethwick and resolved:- 
(1) that the proposals for a land use change to the sites in the Black Patch area, Smethwick to that of residential be noted;
(2) that a masterplan and Interim Planning Statement be prepared as the way forward for the Black Patch, Smethwick area;
(3) that in connection with Resolution (2) above, a further report be submitted to the Cabinet on the draft masterplan and Interim Planning Statement prior to public consultation being undertaken;
(4) that consultation be undertaken with Merry Hill Allotment plot holders to consider relocation to an alternative allotment site and the results of the consultation be submitted to Cabinet in due course. 
The Council will note these minutes. A further detailed report on the draft masterplan will be presented in due course to Cabinet to which you will be invited to attend 
Kind Regards
Suky Suthi-Nagra
Democratic Services Manager
Sandwell Council, Oldbury, B69 3DE
Us lot - Friends of Black Patch Park, Stacey, Harj, Ash, Phil, Ron, Simon at Newbigin House on 30th Jan 2018

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