Saturday, 12 December 2009

Getting ready for Christmas

I've enjoyed being chilly with warm breaks most of the week, cycling in the dark, threading through city traffic, catching trains, waiting on station platforms - a morning on scrutiny for Staffordshire County Council - one of three seminars for them; a morning on Managing with political awareness for Hounslow London Borough; an evening on how to do scrutiny reviews for Milton Keynes Council; a conference paper delivered with Lesley Prince and Andrew Coulson on Local Government Leadership; two hours as a volunteer being tested and sampled for the UK Biobank; my 90th blood donation; and yesterday a visit to London to take
presents to the Greek side, to have fish and chips with Jim Brooks at Seafresh and supper with Ziggi at Pasta Plus; the assurance that using YouSendIt I can share video size files with John in Australia. Meanwhile Lin and I have been tidying up Amy's old bedroom, and taking her stuff to hers and Guy's new house at Minworth. I've attended a most lively AGM of the Handsworth Breakthrough Credit Union at Cannon Hill Baptist Church off Soho Road; and two suppers at the Quality Street Centre off Soho Road with Rajinder who, when I expressed my anger at Penny Woolcock's Handsworth-based blacksploitation movie 1Day, said "Kids with guns crapping their pants. We're the gangsters."
A few days ago, cycling home down Wycliff Road, I saw Alan Orr strolling along holding a red brick. "Alan! what are you up to with that?" "Checking on a planning application. They must use a certain colour," "I'll believe you. What's happening with the VJA (see p.8 of the FoE Newsletter)?" He told me the gardeners' shed was in place, which I'd seen before I went to Australia, "...and the water supply and the path and topsoil. The last thing will be the laying out of specific plots" "There seems no change since I've been away" "Oh yes there has been more work's been done on the playing fields." I've no way of knowing if this is so. Meantime Ziggi in London has already taken up her allotment in Haringey. We had fun chatting about her first experiences as we had supper last night.
* * *
Andrew C was on the train to London. We discussed next week's Oversight and Scrutiny module on campus - my last piece of teaching before Christmas - after which I'm up to the Highlands and then back to beloved Greece where the economic news is as bad as I've heard. He also told me the back story about the crisis in our Sociology department.This is all rather depressing especially after the data massage leak from University of East Anglia. It goes back to allegations of plagiarism by an academic in the department. Publishers of the journal Citizenship Studies, have retracted a 2005 paper of his, having determined that some sections were copied without attribution.
Further allegations of plagiarism led to this academic's departure from Birmingham last June. The story went public after a history of legal advice on campus to respect sub judice, but the story has only just started to spread (see the latest Times Literary Supplement), uncovering a contentious morass. While this remained unknown to those outside the department, Dr Abbas left and got an appointment at another university. When a head of department was appointed recently, all unknowing, she soon resigned, reckoning she faced an unmanageable situation.
** ** ** Lin has picked up a superb Chinese carpet on freecycle. How could anyone givethat away?Lin's always been good at finding bargains and freebies. This morning we spent a half hour spreading the carpet under furniture legs so that it would brighten and warm the sitting room.
* * *
I've been getting an almost constant stream of text messages from André, a soul met busking in the city centre about five years ago. He has become more and more monologic. Increasingly isolated and victimised in the hostels in which he was lodged by various agencies he became subject to being transferred from street to hostel by the police, ultimately sectioned. Amy would tell me of him now and then. He had my mobile number and started
using it - intensely, continuously; well spelled messages full of vivid complaints about the cruelty he'd suffered and bizarre things that had happened around him to which he would treat a reply as warrant to resend the same message again and again and again. I could not block these. Orange, when I got through to a human being, said I could change my number or complain to the police. I changed it; emailed and texted the new number to friends. Rajinder phoned me yesterday "Hi. I met this black guy in town. He wanted to know how to get in touch so I gave him your number." I knew he was joking, but I feel angry with André for going mad. He's intelligent and was interesting to talk to about theology.
I enjoyed joining in his cut and thrust with fundamentalists - Islamic and Christian - soapboxing in town. But he slipped away from verbal fencing into incoherent filibustering. Wasteful abandonment ... 'cliff sold the black church pudding made from pigs blood'. I kniw black pudding's made from pig's blood, but why is 'church' inserted? What's the link between 'black pudding' and 'the black church'. Is this just synaptic short circuiting or is there an intended connection?
** ** ** Meanwhile in Ano Korakiana the Spyros Samaras band, pictured outside Ag. Nikolopoulos, are to be in a film being made for the TV programme Μένουμε Ελλάδα (Greece Enduring?) encouraging enjoyment of Greece.
I was also interested to read on the village blog that there's a way up to the three crags -Τριοκάτσουλο - towering over Ano Korakiana, above which we catch glimpses of eagles from the garden at 208. Apparently there's a marked path through thickets of oak surrounded by the perfume of ragweeds - ambrosia - rooted in inaccessible spots along the ascent. I wonder if I could manage this climb and leave a flag to mark my achievement.
* * *
The mainstream broadcasters focusing on news about the Hellenic economy seem, after passing references, to have ignored events on the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki. In this respect TeacherDude's citizen journalism is closer to the ground.
** ** ** John Ariss was killed on 9 December while riding his bicycle at the junction of Lancaster Circus and James Watt Queensway as a result of a collision with a bus.

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