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Friday, 20 March 2009

To Scotland

Lin lay fast asleep. I left the house in Handsworth with Oscar and my case and strolled in the Spring mist to our bus stop to begin a journey to the Highlands for a week. By eight the sun was out and the sky blue and the air fresh. The Thursday morning train to Edinburgh left on time amid the morning hurry at New Street; few on board so I could make myself a travelling space. I'm acquiring patience, accepting and even enjoying intervals between things - GPs' receptions, hospitals, station canteens, airport lounges. I wasn't good at this. I'm learning. I'd made up a picnic for the nine hour journey to the Highlands. As the train hurried north, free of irritants, I missed the marmy rationing Lin likes to do, teasing "We're not having food until after Preston" or "not until after 11.30!" On Thursday I doled myself Bombay Mix, then fresh seeded rolls spread with butter, laid with mozzarella and salami, and sipped from a miniature of Chardonnay, reading Robert Wilson's A Darkening Stain, gazing on the landscape, dazzled now and then by the sun, chatting with amiable fellow travellers asking about Oscar, as friendly as ever to all in our carriage. At Edinburgh, so bright and warm compared to our evening stop here in January, I wandered up to the Mile and stood on the steps for a smoke by the Scott Memorial and a gaze on the spring crowd - purged of misanthropy.A Scotrail train afforded even more space for my stretched legs and renewed picnic, with this time a meal for Oscar, as we continued north over the Forth Bridge, through Perth, Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Blair Atholl, the boar and the sow, still lightly snowed, before Drumochter Pass, Dalwhinnie, Kingussie, Aviemore - Oscar recognising familiar clues starts to squeak in anticipation, as after Carrbridge, where we don't stop, heather and braes rush by through cuttings and along embankments by the long slope to the Moray Firth bringing us, by five past five, to Inverness where I'm met by Mum with Lorri her driver and carer to head back up to Strathnairn and the dog's barking wagging licking sniffing reunion at Brin Croft. * * * E-mail from: Simon Baddeley to Ward Cllrs Kim Brom; Mahmood Hussain, cc: Alan Orr, Constituency Planning Officer, re progress on the Victoria Jubilee Allotments (VJA) 14/3/09
Dear Councillors Brom and Hussain To my great regret I can’t be back from London on time for this evening’s rollover item on the VJA. Please let me know if there’s any progress and what steps Alan Orr on behalf of the city council is taking to get things started or kept moving. He's not sent me any progress report since the last ward meeting. I know Charles Bate will try hard to be there, and that you as Councillors are as concerned as any of us about progress on the VJA S106A. Persimmon Homes who I’ve been monitoring on the web are still very much in business and so should be in a good position to get the S106A plans implemented. Meantime waiting lists on some allotments in Birmingham are, according to Clive Birch, Chairman of Birmingham and District Allotments Council (BDAC) up to five years long or just closed. I so hope we can make this happen! Yours truly, Simon, Handsworth Allotments Information Group
From Kim Brom the same evening. cc: ALAN: please make any amendments or clarify any omissions in the detail
Hi Simon. Alan kindly attended the Ward Committee and provided the following update: 1. Allotments. Work under way at the moment correcting ground levels and importing of top soil so it is of the correct type. 2. Sports pitches. Humps and hollows that have appeared are being surveyed next week with a view to decide the best way to rectify this. 3. Pavilion building. Building regs are being applied for. 4. Monies agreed to be given to BCC by the developers are being pursued. 5. The toddlers play area is an issue for some of the residents in the new development. The residents who live near this proposed new play area are suffering Anti-social behaviour whilst others who aren't affected by the ASB want the play area. However, one of the requirements of the planning permission for the houses was that a play area was provided. Hope this helps update things, Kim - sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld
From: rachel chiu to Simon B re: Query about progress on the VJA - 14 March 2009
Hi Simon. I arrived slightly late as I was at the Handsworth Park Association meeting which started at 7.00pm. Councillor Brom said she was emailing you, so you will have had the latests up date, basically that contractors have started to level out the area and are expected tp continue further work next week. Lets see. I seem to recall you were interested in doing a plot share is this still the case? Rachel
From Simon to Rachel:
Thanks for going especially as Charles was unwell. I'm trying to retire = balancing jumping from my part-time lecturing before being pushed by a mixture of time and chance - and also wanting to spend about half my time with Lin in Greece, my half-brother's and sisters' country. We've no plans to leave Handsworth but this transhumance - a tradition in our family - gets in the way of tending an allotment. Were plot sharing to be possible and mutually agreeable it'd be my greatest pleasure to work my life around one - especially a plot on the VJA overlooking the park and St Mary's and so close to one home. Thanks for mentioning it. Best wishes, Simon (in Scotland for a week)
From Rachel:
I am sure we could come to an accommodation regarding an allotment share, as a family we are very flexible and would value the opportunity since we are very amateur gardeners - we have a lot of plants in our garden which have been put in often by John's mother, though our own veg patch is ours 100% and we have had some successes and failures! I am attending on a post grad course in your dept ...most enlightening as there are a couple of partners giving a community participatory and a psychodynamic focus as well as the policy perspective...To be honest it is not work that is it having the most impact but my thinking as to my involvement in the local area...whilst I have seen you at meeting we have never met or had a chat outside those arenas - So Simon and Lin it would be our family's pleasure to invite either or both of you over for a meal! We can talk about what our allotment dreams and I'd enjoy some insights into your personal experience of community involvement. Best Rachel
See Transition Cultures; see review of a book by Andre Viljoen on designing cities for growing food - the city as a farm - productive urban landscapes; allso Bill Mollison on Grave Danger of Falling Food and permaculture 'as the environmental crisis bites, those in the South will be increasingly in demand in the North, coming to teach us how to grow things. ‘CPULs’ shows that this is closer to becoming a reality, and that food security is becoming seen as as much of an issue for the developed West as for the rest of the world.' * * * My mother's accountant came for a drink on Friday, and, in passing, mentioned that this 'situation' - the worst he's known - was having it's worst impact on government because of the loss of tax revenue as people's share prices have fallen so. He scratched his head gently, said he had no answers, felt a bit sorry for Fred the Shred, who's Edinburgh neighbour in the Grange says "He's had to take his kids out of school. There are abusive notices papered all over his frontage. He's disappeared with his family." Reminds me of the subprime fury at AIG executive bonuses expressed the other day by US comedian Stephen Colbert who, to roars of audience approval, promised to lead "a torch and pitchfork wielding mob absent of all thought..." against AIG, who, incidentally, have provided my accident insurance for the last 9 years. Meanwhile my current heroine is Yvonne Froud, post mistress at Joy's Green, just over the valley from our place in Lydbrook, who's putting children's names on sweet wrappers to reduce litter. * * * We parked off the main Aberdeen Road, down a slip road most miss, where I unloaded and unfolded mum's wheelchair letting the three dogs leap from the back to scurry hopelessly but eagerly after the rabbits in the brambles pushing gently along the abandoned road that runs between the shore and the railway, enveloped in the grumble of the Inverness rush hour, chatting to the back of mum's head, enjoying the closer landscape of calm, as the tide slipped away from the firth's long shallows explored by waders, mallards and goldeneye, a swan pair with their cygnets, small gulls uk-uk-uk-ing at the terriers' intrusion. There'd been many sycamores coppiced beside the rails, clearing space for softer growth, showing views not seen before. "I like this walk. Things always look different," I said, "Everything's getting ready for spring. When you come up again in August, the further trees will be hidden by the closer green." * * * Oh happy day (It's the symbolism, stupid) Michelle Obama joins students from Bancroft Elementary School during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new White House Kitchen Garden in Washington..."My girls like vegetables more if they taste good," said Michelle Obama, looking almost too chic to get dirty in a belted sweater and black patent leather boots. "Especially if they're involved in planting it and picking it, they were willing to give it a try."...But Obama's seemingly simple move is seen by many as a political statement akin to Eleanor Roosevelt's 1943 victory garden. Food activists, led by the California chef and Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters, have been lobbying for an organic White House garden since 1993. Now they are celebrating what they call a new "victory" garden. It sent out a message... [Back to the future: 1 May 2009 ~ Obama's White House Garden spurs a race for other gardening firsts

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Simon Baddeley