Saturday noon I cycled by road to Spaghetti Junction, joined the canal and in 30 minutes was waiting to rendezvous with Amy by her new house in Minworth. We'd bought a picnic. She took the other Brompton from her boot and we set out cycling north on the Birmingham-Fazeley canal that passes a hundred yards from the house in Summer Lane. The towpath is narrower and sometimes muddier from here, but we were in the country, albeit surrounded by the roar of traffic on the parallel freeway out of Birmingham. We stopped by locks to eat our picnic and, a little further on at The Dog and Doublet, where I mixed two halves of Old Speckled Hen and Bombardier and Amy had an undistinguished lager. We greeted people travelling on narrow boats, walkers, their dogs and other cyclists, pedalled round Kingsbury Water Park, and headed home, sheltering for a while from a few minutes downpour. A lovely afternoon.
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Encouraged by the Allotments Team of the City Council, who circulated a Newsletter saying plots on the new Victoria Jubilee Allotments site would be available for choosing in late July or early August, we, and a lot of others who, on this intelligence had applied to be shortlisted, have been misled. It's gossip so far, but two informants, one at the City Council responsible for allotments has hinted he agrees that, looking at the site, it will be unlikely the needed work will be done as soon as projected, and the other - cryptic - e-mailed me on 2 July:
Yep, I had a chat with the 'clerk of works?' 2 weeks ago who thought not this year' (and regretted the spec had changed, no tarmac, and thought he couldn't do a 'proper' job in view of that .)
This will teach me to read the small print instead of, as I did when the newsletter arrived with the pile to be sorted on our last return from Greece, holding up a piece of paper with a cry of pleasure. "Plots in our time!" It does say in Newsletter No 1 "...subject to delivery and installation of the buildings." I let my enthusiasm run ahead of normal caution.
So now we revert to the history of delay on this long running issue, with the prospect of more slips twixt cup and lip, not least the possibility that Persimmon Homes, the developer (on whose website I can find no mention of the houses built on the VJA even though they're not all sold) going the way of other businesses in this grim recession. They've already shape-shifted in a decade from Clarke Homes through Westbury Holdings, to Charles Church, thence Persimmon.
Next steps involve contacting our long-term ally Friends of the Earth, our Constituency Planning officer from whom I'd heard nothing. Alan Orr's always had to be prodded. Then we must ask the Allotments Team to circulate another newsletter, if they haven't already, explaining the delay, and at least conjecturing about when plots will be ready. What's that about 'tarmac'? I've spoken to Rachel. We've speculated and will check our sources. Cllr Mahmood Hussain has said he'll make enquiries and come back to me. I'm sorry we've lost Cllr Kim Brom who had been our terrier when it came to chasing up on previous delays in implementing the terms of the Section 106 Agreement that is supposed to bring, as well as allotments, playing fields and a sports pavilion to the site. As someone else said "these developers offer these things to get planning approval to build on green space, then having built and made their profit, go slow on the bargain." Adrian Stagg as the City Council has promised us to have a word with Cliff Nixon, Persimmon Homes' on-site project manager, and Clive Birch of the Birmingham & District Allotments Council who are there to help new allotments get started will make enquiries about the rumoured delay. So much for food growing in this bit of the city - for the time being! One of our champions Liz England died on 13 June, a great crowd of us at her funeral at West Bromwich Crematorium on the last day of June, returning to eat and talk at The Sons of Rest in Handsworth Park.
ENGLAND Elizabeth (Liz) Aged 72. Of Handsworth. Sadly passed away on 13th June 2009. Greatly missed by Tracey and all the family and many many friends. Funeral Service Tuesday, 30th June at West Bromwich Crematorium at 1.00 p.m. Reception at Sons of Rest Building, Handsworth Park. Family flowers only, donations if desired to Cancer Research UK or Macmillan Nurses c/o Co-op Funeral Services. Tel. 0121 358 1885.
John Richfield, before Liz, Chair of the Handsworth Park Association, Chris - whose surname I don't know, committee member, - and Mohammed - ditto - Park Ranger, at the Sons of Rest, thinking of Liz and the work she did for the restoration of Handsworth Park and the pleasure of her company* * * I note BBC reporting, amid a story about the arrest and release of British Embassy staff in Iran, the release of Iason Athanasidis (see also and also...), who holds dual Hellenic-UK citizenship,
negotiated via Greek diplomacy.
On another matter, I pray I'm not circulating unfounded rumours, but an account comes, via Agiot Newsletter, of a fracas at a cross-roads about 8 miles due south of Ano Korakiana - Agios Ioannis - site of an annual music week on Corfu, the Agiotfest 09 - on an island rich with musical festivals. The chat that follows below the image I posted on Flickr has gone in other directions; motives behind the naming of Οδός Δημοκρατίας in beloved Ano Korakiana and comments on the Hellenic political landscape. Fascinating and a little uncomfortable.
Watching a Zougla news item from Corfu on YouTube on a laptop in the Apple Store in Birmingham
E-mail from H in Agios Markos:
You captured a really good image of yourself viewing the scene of chaos! I guess every paradise has its moments. I've never experienced, or heard from anyone else experiencing, any problems with the gypsies...I just recalled that as I was stopped at a traffic signal about a month ago, a truck with several gypsies was waiting next to me and they leaned out of their window and began talking to me about the recession. They were sharing their anxieties. It was sincere. I found it touching and somehow very odd. I could only sympathize and then the light changed* * * While here I have a promising e-mail from an international historian who's suggested other lines of enquiry, another place to look for Eleni Calligas thesis and the forthcoming PhD of another student of Ionian politics. Exciting.
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Page 3 of the July 09 Agiot Newsletter - a version of my blog on Albania - but kanun goes unmentioned on the Wikipedia entry for the country.
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Iason Athanasiades was freed today after 18 days detainment in Iran. He attributes his release to Hellenic diplomacy. Arrested by armed and plain-clothed men at Tehran Airport, Iason describes being punched and pushed to the ground when he tried to alert other passengers to his detention. An American bystander at the airport wrote down his details. Later she telephoned his editor in Washington, D.C.
After being freed, Athanasiadis met Hellenic Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and thanked her for playing a key role in ending his imprisonment. He also thanked Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, for his appeal to Iranian authorities. "There was an amazing show (of support) by Greek diplomacy ... using unorthodox and interesting pressure points," he said. "The Ecumenical Patriarch coming up in my support is something I'm going to be eternally grateful for." [An email exchange between me, Iason and Jonathan D earlier this year which included thoughts on Dora Bakoyannis]