From Handsworth our son photographed a midsummer dawn
I'm miles apart in culture, experience and history from Tolstoy's character Levin but I was grateful to Google for recovering lines I remembered - vaguely - from the end of Anna Karenina, the part that has a happy ending for Levin and Kitty:
And Levin, a happy father and husband, in perfect health, was several times so near suicide that he hid the cord that he might not be tempted to hang himself, and was afraid to go out with his gun for fear of shooting himself.It was those lines I recalled because as Tolstoy points out Levin has all that might be associated with content - a long loved woman as his wife, delightful children, material security, good health. Finding that memorable passage again I saw it was preceded by Tolstoy's speaking of himself.
All that spring he was not himself, and went through fearful moments of horror. "Without knowing what I am and why I am here, life's impossible....In infinite time, in infinite matter, in infinite space, is formed a bubble-organism, and that bubble lasts a while and bursts, and that bubble is Me." It was an agonizing error, but it was the sole logical result of ages of human thought in that direction...War and Peace and Anna Karenina - Tolstoy's most majestic works; their indirect narrators Pierre Besuhov and Konstantin Levin - both embodiments of their author, sensitive to the charged implications of privileged status amid casual oppression, unrelenting servitude, the ebbing sea of faith, the improbability of God despite fervent attention to liturgy, holy text, observance of the rituals of penitence and devotion. Happiness harbours grim contemplation.
The process is unpredictable, probably inexorable, and because its woven into the present, nothing like the neatly composed narratives of past crises. Everything's mixed up; daily highs and lows obscuring a longer wave - mild until it steepens, curls, trips and breaks. We hear less about 'green shoots of recovery'; less about light at the end of the tunnel; more about changing our way of life, about hard times into the future.... and 'hard times' means? Our leaders avoid being drawn on detail. They can't surrender the appearance of being in control. Big projects are being abandoned, construction workers laid off as banks foreclose or governments cut. Middle class investment becomes negative equity. Nest eggs dissolve. Pensionable age advances. Pensions lose their value. Hospital waiting lists lengthen. There are fewer and lower benefits and concessions - like winter fuel payments; fewer government training schemes, fewer business start-up grants, more expensive care - for young and old. Less respite for carers. The mesh in the net grows wider, protecting fewer. Sovereign risk becomes normal. Failure the fault of the failed.
Latest from the Independent Treasury Economic Model - ITEM - interpreted by Ernst & Young - 'tightening of more than £48bn required to eradicate structural deficit...'
From the YouGov site these polls:
Consumer Confidence Trackers
Kathimerini 19/06/10 on the end of the Greek welfare state. See also 'Young Greeks' in LA Times 12/06/10 See Teacherdude's photostream from Thessaloniki - this for instance and the accompanying words...
Sometimes it's the little thing that show you how grim things are getting here in Thessaloniki, the long lines of taxis waiting at ranks for customers to turn up even in the middle of the day when up till recently getting a cab was next to impossible. Or perhaps its the accents of wandering street vendors who are now more likely to be people from the city than some recently arrived immigrants from West Africa or a member of Greece's Rom community. The city centre has become a near ghost town on week nights, a mere shadow of its former, vibrant self with cafes uncharacteristically quiet and empty streets, this in a place that prided itself on 4am traffic jams...
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As a PCSO Amy was a steward of public space - armed with her wits and connections via radio and CCTV to the police. Now, though still in training, she's becoming a centurion - with powers of arrest, doing intensive homework on the legal framework within which she must exercise those powers; armed in a literal sense, with a baton, handcuffs, pepper spray and a stab-proof tabard, techniques for interpersonal negotiation, self-defence and methods of 'taking down' someone resisting arrest - things I've learned about, not from my daughter who's discrete about her work, but from the internet and observation.
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An informative overview of the Greek pension system and how it will be reformed.
Led by Prime Minister George Papandreou, lawmakers will begin passing legislation this month to overhaul the system, which the EU and IMF say contributed to the country’s debt crisis. Under terms of last month’s 110 billion-euro ($123 billion) (note: in UK a billion equals 100 million; in US it is 1,000 million) bailout agreement, Greece will increase the retirement age to 65 from as early as 58, curtail early retirement and calculate payments over a longer period of employment...The bill will be the first enacted by Papandreou’s government since the May 6 package that pledged 30 billion euros of wage and pension cuts and tax increases over the next three years.* * * Aris & Katie on their blog are stirring greater curiosity about olives - in particular the suggestion that British understanding of olive oil is akin to our understanding of wine in the 1950s.
I said that, at heart, I'm not sure English people actually like olive oil. They like the idea of it, or the idea of liking it (like Kundera's "second tear"), but not the actual product. Hence the concept of extra-virgin olive oil- actually a very technical assessment of its acidity- is transmuted into a fetish for the wateriest, most pallid, flavourless liquid. Despite its fabled parthenogenic origin, any Corfiot farmer would rather a blowsy dockside strumpet of an oil than a timid virgin; though it would be a job to convince, say, Jamie Oliver, that cloudy green Greek oil is better than translucent bottled-in-Tuscany olive water...He said - I think astutely- that olive oil in the UK now is where wine was in the 1960s. We know it's a good idea, but we still think Blue Nun is the best the world has to offer. Corfu Olive Oil blog ~ 9 June 2010Leftheris has educated me about some of the varieties. I'd like to learn more, that for instance the Corfu olive is called Lianolia Kerkyra. Perhaps we should visit the Triklino Vineyard, off the Pelekas Road out of Corfu Town, where a fire in 2000 destroyed a thousand of the family's olives, so that now they specialise in wine while showcasing olive cultivation. This table, among many, introduces the range of Greek olives - a first lesson, my heart full hearing a Greek friend reciting the names - an olive oil litany - Ποικιλίες ελιάς. In the centre our own rain loving Lianolia Kerkyra - Λιανολιά Κερκύρας - Souvlolia, Korfolia, Prevezana, Dafnofylli - Σουβλολιά, Κορφολιά, Πρεβεζάνα, Δαφνόφυλλη - from Corfu, Paxi, Cephalonia, Zakynthos and the dry shores of Epirus.
The Most Important Olive Varieties In Greece
|Conservolea||Amfissis, Artas, Violiotiki, Hondrolia Halkidikes||Central and W. Greece, Halkidike|
|Kalamata||Kalamatiani, Aetonychia, Korakolia||Peloponnese, Crete, W. Greece|
|Koroneiki||Lianolia, Psilolia, Ladolia, Kritikia||Peloponnese, Crete, Lonian Islands|
|Lianolia Kerkyras(Corfu)||Souvlolia, Korfolia, Prevezana, Dafnofylli||Corfu, Paxi, Cephalonia, Zakynthos, Epirus Coast|
|Koutsourelia||Patrini, Patrinia, Lianolia, Ladolia||Peloponnese, Nafpaktos|
|Mastoedes||Tsounati, Matsolia, Mouratolia||Peloponnese, Crete|
|Megareitiki||Perachoritiki, Vovoditiki, Hondrolia Aigians||Attica, Boeotia, Kynouria|
|Kolovi||Mytilinia, Valanolia||Lesbos, Chios|
|Kothreiki||Manaki, Manakolia, Korinthiaki||Delphi, Amfissa, Troezen, Kynouria|
|Thrubolea||Thasitiki, Hondrolia Evoias||Aegean Islands, Attica, Euboea|
Durrell in Prospero's Cell:
The entire Mediterranean seems to rise out of the sour, pungent taste of black olives between the teeth. A taste older than meat or wine, a taste as old as cold water. Only the sea itself seems as ancient a part of the region as the olive and its oil, that like no other products of nature, have shaped civilizations from remotest antiquity to the present..Our little black island olives aren't the best to eat on their own, but Durrell's conflation of sea and olive reminds me of that commentary on the rivalry between Poseidon and Athena missing from the Parthenon pediment. No it doesn't, not really. It makes me long to be with Lin on Democracy Street gazing towards Prophet Elias on the hill and over the narrow sea to the Pindus mountains. That bright orange drawer - mouse-gnawed and wood-wormed - is now stripped, sanded, strengthened and polished and part of a cupboard we made from recovered wood.