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Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Showing our friends around

Easter approaches. Wednesday night I met John and Annie off Olympic 606 from Athens and drove them to the village. Despite rain and cloud we've been showing off the island - up to the summit of Pantokrator via Spartillas, on to Petalia, Lafki and Acharavi, back round the corniche to Pyrgi and Ipsos. We've been to a table top sale, watched the sun set from the monastery at Paleokastritsa, strolled the shore at Dassia and Gouvia - gazing on the barren coastline of Epirus and Albania, enjoying giros from George's, driven along the upper road via Agios Markos, wended through the narrow lanes of Ano Korakiana, on through the surrounding olive groves, visited the city including Kanoni to have mezes with Alex K, the old fort and the streets off the Liston, had best friends - Mark and Sally - to supper, introduced neighbours and sat in the Beer Bucket at Kontokali to communicate by e-mail and skype with the rest of the world from Canada to Australia via England and Scotland.At an antique display in Dassia we saw a funny oil painting which captures rather well Kenneth Clark's distinction between the naked and the nude. Our understanding would be that on a beach the grown-ups would more likely be dressed and the child, innocently naked, enjoying paddling in the sea, but in this piece of artless wall-furniture the ladies are about as naked as you could imagine - poised to be embarrassed by the approaching skiff but also, I'd have thought, at being portrayed in this ridiculous composition. In Clark's terms nude is suggested perfection and 'ladies' are women, while 'naked' is "whoops I took my clothes off and posed for this old bloke with an easel that we met in the hotel bar...and he said he'd paint the sea in later as it's a bit chilly out today."
"The English language, with its elaborate generosity, distinguishes between the naked and the nude. To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition. The word 'nude,' on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled and defenseless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body: the body re-formed. In fact, the word was forced into our vocabulary by critics of the early eighteenth century to persuade the artless islanders of the UK that, in countries where painting and sculpture were practiced and valued as they should be, the naked human body was the central subject of art...We do not wish to imitate; we wish to perfect— an idea, like so many others, perhaps first formulated by Aristotle with his usual deceptive simplicity. 'Art,' he says, 'completes what nature cannot bring to a finish. The artist gives us knowledge of nature's unrealized ends.'"
* * * To Agni and back in Summer Song with friends - a sail with Alan and John on sails, a motor (once we got it started with a spare battery from Alan), a picnic with food from Honey, and, for me, a short swim in chill cerulean sea while Lin and Annie beachcombed. * * * Our conversation has ranged over one another's origins – J’s in agricultural Denmark, A’s, similar, from Scotland (name Guthrie) and the Orkneys, mine Mrs Gaskell’s world of industrial Oldham - an iron master turned mill owner, Lin’s in Staffordshire – mining, basket-making, leather work, the challenge of drawing many different groups and interests together to support policies that improve sustainability, the behaviour of wisteria (J & A helped us prune and ‘constrain’ ours to give it a chance to compete with some of the explosions of violet rhizomes around Korakiana’s gardens), the duplicitous seduction of cults, the minds of cats compared to dogs, the contrasting verbal tactics of men and women in negotiation, whether and when to say "Yasou", "yasus", "ya", "Kalimera", "Xerete", "hello", "hi", "morning", "how do you do?", "good day", Australian politics and the implications of being on the front-line of climate change, drought and rising sea levels, the pop-star fees for conference appearances by Al Gore (A$250k plus premier travel and accommodation for six staff - reasonable for the task of persuading sand-eaters to face inconvenient truths), the role of academia in the world (John and I agree on the genius of the Australian thinker Fred Emery (2nd from r. in B&W snap)– who we both knew – and his talented mixing of rigorous research, conceptual ingenuity in thinking about the future and his engagement with the practitioners in government and business – from high strategy to grassroots and the earth below them), the persistence of class, the beauty of Corfu, the liveliness of Ano Korakiana's community, and after a visit to the sublime ruins of St. Elias, what John tactfully called ‘inappropriate development’ – here and everywhere, and slightly unpredictable process of down-loading film to the computer, choosing editing software, compression codecs and shareable film file formats for the end result. I'm so delighted and flattered to have John, a respected academic from the other side of the world aiming to replicate my working material on political-management relations, or what he describes as 'negotiating the overlap' with a view to us sharing our research in workshops across Australia this November. I'm also looking forward to Annie's analyses, with her students, of the gender dimension in a number of key film clips, I've added to her external hard drive, of men and women in conversation. .
Bees enjoy the hill of the church of the Prophet Elias -
shortly to be surrounded by private houses

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Simon Baddeley