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Monday, 12 May 2008

Handsworth

It's good to see Oscar again. I've just been picking up on the gossip in Handsworth, cycling and strolling round our park - full of people from everywhere - picnicking, playing cricket and soccer and handball, running, walking, talking and musing by the ponds on a sunny May afternoon. The place gets its Green Flag inspection (see page 22 in the 2007 report - a PDF file) this week. I've been listening to the apprehensions of the local rangers who maintain the fragile civility that makes the park work. The other day - from two directions - vehicles, K told me, swerved into the park borders and smashed walls and fences; also, about a week ago, "Polish people from 30 to 15 - about fifty men and women - came in the park; smashed the benches in the sunken garden and sprayed graffiti. It's mostly cleared up". As usual there's never an explanation for such bizarre behaviour. I think of anomie (from the Greek, of course - ανόμος without law) - humans from another land, confused there, more so here. It's a bloody nuisance, typical of the work involved running a park in a teaming inner city area. Three Rangers - good men - who know the place like the backs of their hands, constantly alert to incidents like these, help, through their stewardship, to maintain a safe public space enjoyed by thousands.
As I chatted to M he stopped a 14 year old kicking a soccer ball against the shutters of the Sons of Rest Pavilion. "I'll be back" said the boy, resentful, but later we saw him and friends artfully kicking the same ball to and fro on open grass. Two Punjabi men approached M. One had had his nose bloodied in a fracas that had brought the police in earlier. "We're going to have blood" said one. "Can you forget it?' said M "No way" "Can you take your argument out of the park then?" "It makes no difference - in the park or not!" They wandered off - searching. The grounds maintenance teams will be working away to keep the Green Flag in the next few days. We can only hope. It's interesting that one lots of local problem makers - there are always some - come from eastern Europe, from the enlarged EU, though all that I see have been just as keen to relax in the park as the rest of its visitors. This is what parks are about - arenas for negotiating and sustaining community, often assailed, and necessarily fought for by people who treat their job as duty and live their work.
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Picking up tasks for the coming weeks; teaching in East Anglia and on campus and in a few weeks in Australia (see p.8 of the Congress brochure - my first workshop) and Japan. This morning I clicked on the Skype icon Lin had set up for me and 'dialled' John Martin at home, and - blimey - we were seeing and hearing each other clearly. Over 44 minutes - free - we went over plans for my coming visit, as easy as if he were sat across a table - or nearly. I'm late to this way of communicating, given I used the internet first in 1995 with e-mail close behind. This wasn't fiddly. It was as easy as phoning with a handset and - because it was visual - better for our purposes. Our images were fuzzy and there was an occasional sound stumble - but never problematically so.

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