Sunday, 20 June 2010

Η μικρή λεπτομέρεια

Alan's mouldings for the stairs to the restored balcony
As I thought about the village while putting up shelves in Handsworth, an email came - one I opened like a handwritten letter amid the junk:
Hi, Simon and Lin. Here's a shot of the mouldings that will give you a rough idea of what the side of the stairs will look like when finished. Michalis was detained a few days waiting for delivery of the metal. He will begin Monday. Until he has put in the metal work, I'm unable to move ahead with my work. But, meanwhile, I'm preparing moulds to be ready when he's completed. Even if the metal had been delivered on time, the people over the path have blocked the way for work on your place with their sand and roof tiles. Let's hope it's cleared away by Monday..Hope all is well and good there. Alan and Honey.
** ** ** Sunday noon and Nikolaos came for our Greek lesson. Sat at the kitchen table, we went over our letters again, and combinations of letters, checking sounds as well as our writing and tried reading passages from the Ano Korakian website...Το τέλος και της φετινής σχολικής χρονιάς...OK we can do that. But ... σφραγίστηκε...oh dear!'s tricky, said Niko, three consonants in a row. It means 'sealed'. Sigma. Pi. Delta...Ssss....Phi...Ghi...oh gosh, help....σφραγίστηκε. In fact Lin can do this better than me even if I have a larger vocabulary.
Nico had us break tricky words into parts and work through them slowly, remembering the importance of the stress accent....από τη μαθητική...easy...γιορτή στο...OK...προαύλιο...means 'yard', but how do you say it? We got on to those tricky combinations...ει, οι, αι, αυ, ου...proavlio? Hm? ... του Δημοτικού...easy again... του Δημοτικού μας Σχολείου, που...great! But then... διοργανώθηκε ...organised...χθες....,yesterday... κατά τις 7 το ...απόγευμα...afternoon. We knew 7 was epta! We practiced. I'm more hopeful. Like a patient who thinks they may get better after all. We like Niko. By some clever style of helpfulness he avoids making us feel foolish and yet avoids any hint of being patronising. We have homework for next week. Vowel combinations. Also consonant pairs like γγ, υκ and μπ. Basic building blocks vital to our confidence.
Greek lesson 2 at the kitchen table: not a μούντζα;
** ** ** Email from Richard Wiltshire, who's travelled the world studying the impact of economic organisations on urban development and population mobility, in the process learning about different approaches to urban food growing - a subject on which he's advised governments, being co-author of the 2008 report Growing in the Community for the Local Government Association. He works his own plot in London. I'd sent him news of the opening of the Victoria Jubilee Allotments:
Dear Simon. This is excellent news. Excess demand for allotments nationwide really has changed the plot - though the forthcoming budget cuts will surely change it again. So the timing turns out to be spot on. Regards, Richard
** ** ** Letter to our MP, Khalid Mahmood - 21 June 2010:
Dear Khalid. At last the Victoria Jubilee Allotments were opened for plots on 12 June 2010. Those of us who have signed up and, indeed, taken all 79 plots, are of course delighted after so many years of waiting - and in many cases participating in local campaigns to save this part of Handsworth as green space.
I'm writing first to thank you for your continued support for those endeavours, but also to inform you that the S106 Agreement negotiated between Birmingham City Council and the developer, now Persimmon Homes, included, as well as allotments, three playing fields and a sports pavilion. These are still delayed with no immediate prospect known to local people including our ward councillors that the promised two soccer pitches and cricket field will be useable this year - or next.
Can I ask you to press for clearer information on when these important resources - in terms of well being and social cohesion - will be available to the community?
We understand that one reason for the delay is that the city council is understandably unwilling to accept these sports fields if on receipt from the developer they require further expenditure to make them playable. In the case of the allotments, officers admit that it was better to accept the allotments being made available despite the detritus that is mingled with the topsoil making it substandard in terms of the S106A. Most gardeners will agree that they'd rather get going preparing their plots even if this takes a little longer. This kind of self-help in preparing ground for cultivating allotments, cannot be applied to land reserved for sport and recreation. Different and higher levels of surface preparation necessarily apply. We are almost certain that in delaying the laying out of the playing fields that were integral to the S106A, the developer is failing to fulfil their side of a bargain agreed over 6 years ago (ref: Planning application N/01514/03/FUL)
We would be grateful for any information you can obtain and make available to the community and for any pressure you can bring to bear that will bring this matter to a happy conclusion. Seldom has it been more important for resources of this kind to be made available to the community. Yours sincerely, Simon

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