Monday, 4 February 2008

In Ano Korakiana

The drinks are made of juice from some of our blood oranges. The books, CDs and DVDs I bought, from all those I’d gathered in the last fortnight, were Angelopoulos’s Τοπιο στην Ομιχλη or Landscapes in the Mist (with English subtitles), another version of Theodorakis' setting of Axion Esti, in which the soloists include Grigoris Bithikotsis, 30 Nocturnes by Manos Hadjidakis (which I’d given Lin for Christmas), the film of The spy who came in from the cold which I've not seen for decades, The Third Man, and an inexpensive CD of songs bought on ebay called Ανάμνηοη Σμύρνης – laments for the destruction of Smyrna. For books I’ve bought a Robert Wilson thriller, Henry Miller’s The Colossus of Maroussi and Kevin Andrews’ The flight of Ikaros. My detached liberal histories remain in Handsworth for the moment.

Writing on contentious subjects – and what else is worth reading – brings to mind that hoary distinction between the separate roles of egg and bacon in breakfast. The chicken is involved. The pig is committed. Eleni by Nicholas Cage is committed and should perhaps be read in conjunction with The Flight of Ikaros. Its author makes early mention of a group of shaven headed young men on his inter-island steamer, guarded by soldiers with rifles, on their way to the island concentration camp of Makronisis - having spent the war years in the mountains fighting the invaders of Greece.

Reading these books about the Greek Civil War, a chicken, like me, can be confronted with the difference between themselves and the bacon makers. I still strive, with the books of liberal historians – like Veremis and Koliopoulos (who, push come to shove, I'd strive to defend with bacon fervour) – to maintain the position of a chicken, but perhaps I should endure the confusion of listening simultaneously to Gage and Andrews. They are very different people.

Henry Miller’s loathing of war and eschewal of possessions puts him in the bacon party, but then I recall the story of his ‘colossus’ - George Katsimbalis - on his own, starting to sing the Greek National Anthem - the Hymn to Freedom - at a funeral in occupied Athens for the great poet Palamos, under the guns and eyes of Nazi soldiers, being joined in the second verse by ‘a fat Corfiot’, and then by the whole crowd. Perhaps Miller should be read beside Richard Hillary's The Last Enemy as writing this I'm reminded of its ending, after a dying woman, who's hand he was holding after helping rescue her from a bombed house, says "I see they got you too'. His initial rage at her (one needs to read him to explain this) is directed to his realisation why some things must be fought, and again he didn't mean just Germans or Nazis:
'... for I had recognized in that moment what it was that Peter and the others had instantly recognized as evil and to be destroyed utterly. I saw now that it was not crime; it was Evil itself.'

Through some of Sunday I’ve been reading Dh’s thesis outline ‘Shiísm, politics and development in post Saddam Iraq’. It’s a reminder of my lack of knowledge of other worlds. I’ll e-mail it back today with comments. Dh describes the impact of Muhammad Baqir As-Sadr on ‘the formation, roles and development of governance’ and the continuing influence of his son – the Second Sadr – both killed by Sadaam. My friend aims to describe ‘a world of imbalanced power relations’, and to devise a model ‘whereby the hegemony of a given discourse within the community under consideration, is curtailed to give way to development and well being’. I find this subtle and exciting. He says before this ‘The dominance of a given religious discourse and a particular faith group, and how this discourse is related to the construction of reality, cannot be seen in value-judgmental terms.’ I think ‘cannot’ is too strong and have said as much to Dh. We chickens have some neck too.
‘On 19 February 1999, as he was heading home from Kufa Mosque after a fiery sermon delivered in the Friday prayer, Sadr’s car was intercepted by gunmen who showered it with automatic rifles.

SB comment:‘fire’ or ‘bullets’ not ‘rifles’ were in the shower.

His two sons, Mustafa, the oldest, who was driving, and Muámmal, next to the youngest died immediately. Sadr was taken to a hospital in Najaf center and died there. News, from various sources, confirmed the regime’s involvement in the incident. Delegates from Saddam were sent to the hospital to confirm Sadr’s death.

SB comment: So often the innocent get caught. Should Sadr, though he should have lived, have traveled with his children. Sorry I lose my academic detachment. Lin said "They were intelligent young men and probably knew the risks and chose to share them with their father."
I have been drawn into another world by Dh’s writing, having to concentrate on pointing out small errors of grammar. Here in England, and even in Greece (so long as I respect the flag), I can say what I like – except shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre, calling for attacks on other ethnic groups, praising paedophilia on the internet or joking about bombs to airport security – and fear little. One could be killed in a street in Birmingham for not showing ‘respect’, but in the public domain I’m free to say more or less what I like and the powers that be will defend my right to do that. In the world Dh describes, and has long inhabited, men and women say things in public which can lead to their imprisonment, torture and death and – worse – the imposition of similar penalties on family and friends - a hideous double punishment. It is not that my milieu doesn’t demand courage, but not this kind, which I associate with England and the rest of Europe up to and during the Reformation. It is strange and humbling to come across this world today. Dh has made it more real for me.

Sunday. The island lies under a wet overcast, with a distant beam of sun brightening the sea towards Igoumenitsa; a parade of white cloudlets over the strait and the lightest of south winds turning into rising rivulets of white mist as it encounters the wooded face of Trompetta. With my umbrella I strolled along wet Democracy Street to dump the rubbish in the bins beyond the platea.
* * *
Drip drip drippa drip-drip, drip drip drippa drip-drip … and so on - despite Aln clambering lithely on the roof on Saturday to staple interim cover over the existing mess of rucked and missing felt. Leftheris had said “Beaufort 10” and signed - pointing to the lower ground - serious damage to a brother’s house. I, aware of needing to curb exaggeration about wind, imagined this true. The roof, already bare of tiles through the work I’d stopped when I came in December, had been subject to the feral shucking of a big wind. F8 bangs on the door. F10 breaks and enters. Some felt strips had landed over the hedge opposite from Leftheris. A sheet of insulation, from a pile left on the balcony, hung in a tree. The neighbours had retrieved other wayward pieces. “The rain was coming down in sheets” said Aln later. Our roof is letting in rain. I woke Sunday morning to find Lin spreading plastic sheets and bowls on the upstairs floor. Most leaks were sorted by Aln later in the morning, but his best efforts had not sealed the other end. Rain came in the night. This time Lin woke to find me catching more drips. “That ceiling’s done for” she said gloomily.










On Tuesday evening we’d arrived safely at Kapodistria, having passed through security at Birmingham, Zurich and Athens. Shoe removal has become random, but our taxi could not drop us at the terminal at Birmingham – barriers instituted since the doctors’ fiery drive-in assault at Glasgow airport last year - meant a short walk with luggage to check-in. In Zurich a tin of chicken in cream sauce that Lin had forgotten to put in our hold baggage – so we’d have a swift supper if the shops were closed in Corfu - and which had been noted but passed hrough at Birmingham, was discovered by X-ray and confiscated. ‘The white sauce is the problem’ said the guard apologetically, throwing the tin in a bin. One of Kostas’ and Georgia’s cars was parked for us at Kapodistria. Lin drove the familiar route, on quiet roads, to Ano Korakiana via a supermarket. The house was chilly but most rooms were dry and soon warmed. Over a light supper we made lists, then unpacked. The electric blanket, plus two hot water bottles, warmed our bed. In the morning we’d begin errands. Check Summer Song, phone re work inside and outside the house, sweep and tidy balcony and veranda, start bagging the pile of rubble removed from the roof, read the water meter and pay the bill, buy another heater.

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