Tuesday, 13 April 2010

'...στὴν κώχη τούτη τὴν μικρή...'

We watched the film of Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road. Brilliant and grim; another of the many anticipations of Armageddon that entertain us – eloquent warnings to be watched over popcorn, or in our case, via VLC media player over a pleasant supper. “People ate one another in those times”; successive dark ages, constant war, famished gangs of desperadoes, barbarians at the gate, circumstances in which the living envy the dead. We associate the ‘end of the world’ as we know it with plague, nuclear war and, now, with climate change – the latest horsemen. It’s even fun to watch, especially when the author's inserted a feel-good ending. Millenialism always present among us mortals, is especially popular these days - in secular as much as religious form. On Corfu its early apprehension is intensified by Maria Strani's cautionary fable - The Pimping of Panorea. Maria's a Corfiot, speaking of her own people and place, but foreign visitors’ and ex-pat vexation at the despoiling of their ‘little corner’ looks like displaced guilt; half conscious awareness that what’s happened to Panorea is happening everywhere. “Didn’t we come here to get away from all that?” Tosh on stilts. Blaming Corfiots, or Greeks as a whole, is a diversion; a disingenuous denial of the collective mess to which most of us contribute across the world. The problem in cameo: follow a romantic gravel track past multi-flowered verges, hollyoak and myrtle hedges intertwined with wild asparagus amid crags whose rocky grandeur surfaces above pine covered hills between which are enticing glimpses of azure sea skirting hazy mountains until on entering the cool shade of the woods we come, beneath the oak branches and overhanging cypress, amid ivy covered ground, a typical flytip
Regular flytipping on a gravel track between Ano Korakiana and Ipsos
– detritus, old and new, strewn along the way - building rubble, canisters of toxic liquid, mattresses, car body parts, carpets, fibre glass mouldings, polystyrene coving, cookers, washers, spin dryers, a baby-buggy and a baby-walker, square olive oil tins, shop blinds, a shattered mirror, off-cuts of roof insulation in geometric shapes, hardened bags of cement, old clothes, odd shoes, an umbrella, a bag of bar glasses, sodden books, a complete WC pan, ripped luggage, black plastic bags of unidentified debris, lathes, cardboard product boxes with more chunks of moulded polystyrene, broken bathroom tlles, legless tables and shattered plastic chairs, tattered bamboo screening, plastic bottles and popcans, fitted kitchen tops, sheets of cracked glass, rusting blackened stove pipe, off-cuts from pipes of various gauges, bags of sharded glass, semi-hardened crumbling plaster past its use-by date, palettes, a sack of bottles, electric cable, cracked plastic flowerpots, garden cuttings, a child’s plastic boat ‘The Titanic’ “and a cuddly toy!” – as competitors would say on one of Bruce Forsyth’s myriad TV game shows over the last sixty years. Recycling is a complicated and expensive process for glass and iron, especially alloys; even more so for plastic and polystyrene, not to mention the cans of chemicals. All but the garden waste could stay where it’s been tipped for decades, encouraging further nocturnal visits for dumping by people who are almost undoubtedly aware that what they’re doing is wrong. This is not the tedious moan "we're all guilty." As in The Road - there are good guys and bad guys. (Note: I heard the Demos brought a bulldozer to hide this site but were – rightly - stopped by an environmentalist in our village who insisted they must remove and dispose the rubbish, not just cover it up with local earth.)
This isn’t just Greece, nor is it the midden of impoverished people. Similar flytipping could be recognised at the end of a rural cul-de-sac in Staffordshire, on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors, strewn beside two miles of the Drumossie Road between Inverness and Inverarnie, almost anywhere, across a thousand isolated and lovely locations in reach of car, van and trailer – the same conveyance that could travel to an official refuse disposal site and pay for the service. Where Corfu suffers is that its official sites – Temploni and Lefkimmi - are overwhelmed, even illegal, suffering the worst problems of unprecedently feckless onsumption, and, in the case of beloved Kerkyra, packed ‘στην κώχη τούτη την μικρή’ – ‘into this little corner’.
I’ve been collecting images of our species’ ways of fouling its nest – woodlands, meadows, rivers, oceans - across the world (slides from my Flickr Group 'international flytipping').
The other day I was kindy offered, as something of a bargain, at least €60 reduced to €25 – “it fell off a lorry” - a shiny coffee table book with many professional photos of Corfu, a selective portrait of its resilient beauty, artfully posed, omitting reference to its leprous plight, as selective as glamour photography; as duplicitous as pornography. And a smooth article in a web journal Odyssey (Jan/Feb 2010) applies slap to the island's tattered complexion:
Corfu is, in a word, the most elegant of all the Greek islands. Its voluptuous natural beauty perfectly showcases the architecture of the island, an incredible blend of Continental European grandeur and Mediterranean simplicity. Peering over the rooftops of Corfu Town, with its narrow balconies and wrought-iron railings, you feel your gaze transported in time yet the island is firmly rooted in the present. There’s a reason why Corfu consistently ranks among the world’s top tourist destinations: it’s sophisticated yet totally unpretentious. One reason for Corfu’s lasting appeal is its adherence to tradition, both in its buildings and in the fabric of life. Tradition is a part of daily life, not just in the layout of such settlements as the tranquil Kalami, on the coast, or Pelekas, perched amphitheatrically on a verdant slope, or Argyrades, near the Korissia lagoon, but also in the traditional celebrations of holidays such as Easter, which is observed with particular ceremony. And if the island seems at times like something out of a novel or a memoir, it may be because in very many cases it is–just read the works of the Durrells, and others, to get the feel for places like Barbati.
If some of this weren't the case I wouldn't enjoy the place so much, but Barbati, pleeeze - a bloated centreless sprawl of cloned villas, oily sea, riven by the noise of internal combustion engines, mechanical diggers (part silenced by recession), riven olives, semi-finished, half-begun concrete foundations spouting pipes, wires and iron rods, piled litter blowing in the wind below the burned slopes of Pantokrator. Put a camera in the right place and you can make Barbati look romantic and happy people can enjoy just about anywhere - so the duplicity's sustained..."I thought she really liked me" as the tyro-John murmurs on leaving the service of a professional tart.
From the flytip off the sylvan track amid the greenery, Lin and I recovered wooden shop shutters in fine condition for fencing, drinks glasses, a bucket, several flower pots, and a small round table-top to which, once it’s cleaned up, we shall add a central support, along with two big sheets of cardboard we can use as templates for shelves in the dresser we’re fitting in downstair’s dining room. We also picked up the plastic ‘Titanic’ so that one of the children in the village can play at being the king or queen of the world or running it into an iceberg.
* * *
The construction of a dresser with doors and shelves inside the ever uneven tilted alcove of our dining room presents Linda with especial problems. Being inclined to precision, more mathematical than I, she prefers the objectivity of the set square and the spirit level to the subjectivity involved in creating an illusion of symmetry and straightness through a willing committment to the uneven. What squabbles this engenders! How invaluable the breaks for gardening, cups of tea, coffee and sweet cakes - brought round by an amused, and slightly bemused, Leftheris observing "Problema?" [Back to the future 22 April '10 - cupboard completed]

2 comments:

  1. SIMON, I AM ANDREAS, THE SON OF SOFIA AND NIKOS. WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THE BAND AT EASTER MONDAY. I WOULD LIKE TO MEET YOU AND DISCUSS FURTHER ABOUT THIS. MY EMAIL IS ANDREASZERVOPOULOS@GMAIL.COM. PLEASE SEND ME INFO ABOUT YOUR EMAIL OR TELEPHONE NUMBER.
    THANK YOU

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Andreas.
    s.j.baddeley@bham.ac.uk
    Simon

    ReplyDelete

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