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Monday, 22 March 2010

Handsworth Park

Today I led a history tour of Handsworth Park. Thanks to the publicity from Graham Young in the Birmingham Post and Mail we enjoyed an exceptional turn-out - at least forty people - with an opportunity over tea at the boat house cafè to meet with friends including staff to share apprehensions about plans by the Council to reorganise and cut back on park-keepers across Birmingham.
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The best of news is that Dhiaa is safely back from Basrah. I'm looking forward to hearing all his news and what he's learned for his thesis. But he sent me an old photo:
Dear Simon. Attached is a picture I wanted to show you earlier. I have just found it as I was organizing my documents. It is of a teacher giving an English lesson in the open air to boys from the marshes, south of Iraq. Probably the picture was taken in the 1970s before the war with Iran (1980) and long before the beautiful marshes were drained by the ignorant tyrant and his regime. See how handsome the teacher was, how keen the students were, and how beautiful the marshes were! Apparently, the teacher came to his class by boat (locally called balam), and they seem to have insisted on flying the flag before the class started; I am sure the boys will go swimming in the play time, or fishing when the school day finishes. Hope you will like it. Best Dhiaa
Iraq in peaceful times
Dear Dhiaa. I have a lump in my throat. What a wonderful classroom and what fun to arrive at school by boat. One day this will come back. One day it must. One day it shall. I saw how after twenty years our blighted park in Handsworth was recovered. I walked forty visitors round it today – telling its history, showing it off. Twenty years ago this would have been almost unimaginable other than in hope. I know this is nothing to the scale of the disaster that has overtaken the Mesopotamian marshes, whose drainage I'm sorry to say was begun by the British who saw them only as breeding grounds for mosquitoes and future agricultural land. If recovery can be imagined, it can be realised - with courage and hope and intelligence. Best Simon
With my friend Dhiaa by the River Severn

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