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Saturday, 26 January 2008


By Wednesday morning we should be waking to the sunrise over Epirus. Suitcases are nearly packed; passports checked; errands mostly done; phone calls made to Corfu about restarting work outdoors and indoors at 208 Democracy Street.
I've been collecting books - too many for our baggage allowance, so I'll probably take just three, but which? Kevin Andrews The Flight of Ikaros, C.M.Woodhouse Modern Greece: A Short History 324-1990 and The Philhellenes, Artemis Leontis (ed.) Greece: A Traveller's Literary Companion, and her Topographies of Hellenism: Mapping the Homeland, Thanassis Sfikas The British Labour Government and the Greek Civil War 1939-1945: the imperialism of non-intervention, John Koliopoulos Plundered Loyalties: Axis Occupation and Civil Strife in Greek West Macedonia 1941-1949, Phyliss Auty and Richard Clogg (eds.) British Policy towards Wartime Resistance in Yugoslavia and Greece, Edward Enfield Greece on my wheels, Henry Miller The Colossus of Maroussi, Harry Petrakis The Hour of the Bell and Enver Hoxha Two friendly peoples.
We know it's been raining a lot. How much water will have got in from above or below?

* * *
I am building up a pleasing collection of political-management interviews with members and officers involved with scrutiny. The order book of work for local authorities is reasonably healthy, and I'll to stay in touch with clients by e-mail and phone while in Greece. The Australia workshop and lecture tour is shaping up with my airfare paid and schedule arranged - the flying hours look daunting.

Various projects are brewing. The chapter I wrote on Political-Management Leadership should be published soon. I feel extremely fortunate to have fallen in with my three comrades outside the university, allowing me to benefit from their ideas and experience while still keeping a foot on campus. In the peaceful hours of the morning I will 'read' the recent conversations I've filmed, for insight on the way relationships work for overview and scrutiny.

* * *
One of our Japanese students came to supper the other day and as well as lending us her good company helped organise the loose pages of a collection of prints of 100 birds, lent by mum - the fine work of the 19th century Japanese artist Kono Bairei.

She was interested in knowing about our favourite detective stories and crime writers. So we had fun running by her such favourites as George Simenon, Henning Mankell, Robert Wilson, Micheal Dibden, Andrea Camilleri. She e-mailed me later to tell me of a Japanese detective I'd not heard about. The writer Seishi Yokomizo has invented a character called Kousuke Kindaichi. It's about supernatural crime which is a bit disappointing as I really like police routine dealing with the ordinary horrors of the material world - but maybe there's not enough crime in Japan to go round so other realms call. There's an English translation of at least one of Yokomizo's books. Later by e-mail our guest told me an anecdote that would do as a start for a novel by Graham Greene:
I would like to hear your and your daughter's comment on what happened yesterday afternoon. I was walking around the St Phillips Cathedral in the city centre with a mask and a hat on because I had a sore throat. I knew people did not usually wear a mask even they had a cold, though. Then, a boy - who looked in his teens ran and overtook me with a camera in his right hand. He took a photo of me without looking at me. But I noticed that he took me because it was somewhat suspicious way of running and I heard the sound of click. Then he stopped at a black waste basket, which was also apparently deliberate behaviour. So I asked him if he took a photo of me. Conceivably enough, he answered no. After a moment's reflection, I decided not to be involved, which I thought was a sensible idea and walked away. I think it is better to collect objective comment on it especially from British people's point of view. And since your daughter is almost a police, will you please hear her remarks if possible?
Naturally I have e-mailed my daughter who covers OCU F1 which includes the place this incident occurred. Intriguing!

* * *
What about what happened to me last week? I went to Gedling on the edge of Nottingham to do one of the filmed interviews. I’ve been privileged to do with scrutiny members and officers. My camera and kit were in my bike’s pannier. I’d checked my route – cycle, train, cycle, bus – on the website Transport Direct which works out an A to B route that includes walking - tho’ not actually cycling - and, incidentally, calculates your journey's CO2 use. In Upper Parliament Street where I’d cycled from the station, I found a 7 bus waiting and started to fold my bicycle to board it, when the driver, in a harsh voice - so it sounded to me - said “You can’t put that bike on my bus". The bus contained two people and had spaces for buggies and a wheelchair. I continued folding, hoping he’d see my Brompton’s portability. The driver must have read this as evidence of my intention to bypass his prohibition. He continued to repeat himself in the most hortatory tone. This sort of thing is so rare in my experience. I suggested he phone his company. He got out his mobile and after a moment's chat on the phone I saw him nod and heard him mutter "at driver’s discretion". He turned to me and, with what I perhaps imagined was a gleam of satisfaction, said “Right! I’m exercising my discretion and you aren't putting that bike on my bus”.
I had a map and set out to cycle the three miles or so to Gedling. As I climbed the hill out of the city, on the Mansfield Road, I encountered my unhelpful driver at a T-junction about to enter the same road. While 'his' bus was stopped at a red light I took out my camera and got a picture of this rude fellow. He got on his mobile phone and called the police. “I'm being harassed by a passenger” he said. ‘Passenger? I wish I was' I thought. The police soon arrived in a little car with a twirling blue light. One officer spoke to me; the other to the driver. They conferred, took details and said it was a 'civil matter' and nothing to do with them. We parted.
Later I phoned the bus company and spoke to a genial person who swiftly apologised with a remark about how some drivers, in their concern for passengers, could become 'proprietorial about their vehicles'. I was pacified. While the altercation had been going on that morning a delayed woman passenger had decided to walk. As she alighted I apologised. She shrugged encompassingly and said "men!'

1 comment:

  1. I am *so* pleased to read your account - much crisper written than my Ghetto Bosketto tale.
    But *your* chap meant it; he lives in little Hitlerville. My chap was simply doing his bella figura thing and had the bad luck (and the youngster fuzz) that a fuzzmobile went by. Harrassed by a passenger!
    Can't remember his name - Howard on tip of tongue - terribly funny chap, wrote an account of 'In the land of Oz' for which hed conned hamish hamilton to buy his story. arrived in this tin shack airdrome in alice or somewhere, thought he'd write an aide memoir note of the scene. "oy! Mate - can't you read?' pointing to a sign "No photographs". Howard - jacobson, that's the fellah - opened his pommie mouth to-
    "No photographs means no writing" growled the burly okker.
    that is just sooo land of my birth and i have loved that line ever since sans reeeelly knowing why. it taps a humerus. thanks for tipping me off to this. it is raining here and i have just been to the bosketto to fotograph no one there. yo! no photographs means oki vlogging.


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