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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Working and thinking

So here I am with my trusty folding bicycle about to enjoy a cheese and pickle roll on an almost empty London to Brighton train after the rush hour passengers unpacked themselves and headed into the capital. I was up at 5.30, set the alarm for Lin at 8.30. My main bicycle had a puncture, so I changed lights to the other, and cycled into Birmingham New Street in the growing light to catch a busy express to London. From Euston on a bright morning amid the bustle I pedalled to Victoria via Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Victoria Street. What a delightful way this is to get about. With 20 minutes before my train I sent off some e-mails via the WiFi that covers most of central Westminster. Among other things I sent one to Lin asking if she could find me a reasonably priced copy of the natural history book F & D had recommended when we visited them two Tuesdays ago, while it was still light, threading our way down to their home over a bridge off a narrow alley at the foot of Ano Korakiana – a walk of minutes that would have been a mile by the road. Cold, sinking that evening to -6°C, had shrivelled greenery in our garden. The air was too dry for rime or ice to hazard the steep path between the houses. F & D brought us in to their sitting room, with blazing fire, carpets, a warm puppy, tea, coffee, glayva – a whisky liqueur - and conversation. We discussed Corfu wildlife and I was given a reference to and shown their copy of Thanasis Petsis’ and Penelope Gourgourini’s Greek Nature: The authentic field guide 2004, Lynx Edition, Athens ISBN 960-87746-1-6 e-mail: “Borrow it! Borrow it” said F but knowing my unreliability on the matter of returning books I really want, especially a reference book that looked as interesting and practical as this – you can slip it in a pocket when walking – I refused. (Another guide to Corfu Wildlife can be downloaded as a PDF file)
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An exchange with one of my favourite bloggers - My Greek Odyssey (MGO) - Stavros had been pondering his reasons for writing on the net:
Anyone stumbling across MGO and reading its contents might think I am a hopeless romantic, out of touch and disconnected with Greece and Greeks as they exist today. Perhaps so. Not so long ago a blogger named Thomas lamented my naivete: 'A lot of Greeks here in Greece would disagree with you. They would say your view is quaint and old-fashioned. Some would say the Greece you talk about is dying fast, and others would say it's been dead for a long time.' From its inception MGO has been one man's view of Greekness. It is a celebration of the Greek spirit and the things that have shaped and molded that spirit. If my version of Greekness and its cultural legacy is idealized it is because I prefer to highlight what I see as worth keeping and passing on to my children. If my view is nostalgic, it is for an ethos that was preserved by those that came before me. If I sound naive about the ever shrinking piece of Greece that exists in our collective memory, it is because I am trying to keep it from shrinking even further.
I commented:

I wonder if we are all experiencing what Edward Said described:
I don't like the word 'Glocalisation' but I think its rather baleful effects are being widely experienced, which makes your blog and other odyssey's especially treasured. On the feeling of disappointment no-one knows better than you that if you arrive at the real Ithaka you will have done all your discovering - so voyage slowly. Simon Posted by: Simon Baddeley |
25 February 2008

Stavros replied to me and another of the many comments on his blog:

S. Fascinating link. I've read it twice and must admit that it seems to me that its theme is played out regularly on this blog. As for your sage advice, I will try to tarry awhile enroute and smell the roses on the way. BTW, your new home is coming along beautifully.

Kosta, Where have been? You've been missed. Blogs, whether you are looking in or out, are addictive. An offshoot of this 'globalization' Simon refers to. I sit at my desk in Maine and get to talk to really interesting people thousands of miles away. People who I find are looking for that elusive Ithaka just like me. Why shouldn't we learn from each other on the way? Posted by: Stavros | 25 February 2008
The link I mentioned in my comment leads to a piece on Glocalization - Homelessness: a new geographical boundary by Katerina Nasioka who sounds like a most interesting mind among a number on a site called 'reconstruction community' concerned with artististic and architectural projects for the remaking of cities. It seems based in Greece but its relevance extends. I shall make a link, I think there are also cross-references with Artemis Leontis' Topographies of Hellenism: Mapping the Homeland - based at my old university in Ann Arbor. On the same website my eye was caught by a piece called tunnel 14: the art of courage by Mélinna Kaminari which quotes Theodore Zeldin - a pioneer of 'new methods to improve personal, work and intercultural relationships in ways that satisfy both private and public values.':
It is in the power of everybody, with a little courage, to hold out a hand to someone different, to listen, and to attempt to increase, even by a tiny amount, the quantity of kindness and humanity in the world. But it is careless to do so without remembering how previous efforts have failed, and how it has never been possible to predict for certain how a human being will behave. History, with its endless procession of passers-by, most of whose encounters have been missed opportunities, has so far been largely a chronicle of ability gone to waste. But next time two people meet, the result could be different.

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