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Monday, 12 July 2010


I woke to pattering on the dry earth dreaming it was Sunday. Flea, the cat, paused at the door of the conservatory before tip toeing into the garden. She's pondering rain we've not had for nearly a month. She scurries over to the flower border and works her way fastidiously beneath the intertwined greenery of honeysuckle, verbena and trailing wisteria to lurk where damp won't reach. Our water butt's already brimming.
Yesterday I worked on our allotment - on and off. Some gardeners, often with the help of their families, including toddlers riddling stones, have been making stalwart and enviably impressive progress on their plots since the allotments opened on 12 June.

Working our allotment on the VJA from Simon Baddeley on Vimeo

On Sunday afternoon, I took the video camera with me and made a record that I shall enjoy using as part of a before-and-after diary of progress. Right now I'm very much 'before'. At the Sons of Rest pavilion on Saturday those present agreed to defer setting up an allotments association and arranged to have a larger and better publicised meeting in the community shed on the allotments on Saturday 11 September. On Saturday about twelve turned up - typical of first meetings. Though few, we were optimistic about being able to form an association and a management committee to oversea the collection of rents due to the City on 1 October 2010 and carry out the other tasks that Clive Birch, who was there with Christine Brown from the Birmingham & District Allotments Association, outlined for us, handing round a model constitution. Rachel and I, community activists over years in Handsworth, have made an informal pact to be supportive but not to get involved. We really don't want to distracted from the work needed on our adjoining plots. Yet the incident of the missing beehive is already attracting my attention, and I find myself discussing it with other gardeners. The plotholder next to the one with the beehive complained about it on the grounds that he was allergic to bee-stings.
I understand the complaint was considered by one of the council allotment officers and it was suggested that the beekeeper moved to another plot. Not wanting to get involved in repeated movement of her bees the beekeeper has taken her hive to a local apiary. Gardeners I've spoken to think this an unfortunate precedent. We already miss the hive, good for the vital process of pollination. I'm allergic too stings, but regard that as my problem not the bees' or their keeper's. No doubt this will be an issue for the association when it's formed. (see: June 3 piece on popularity of bee-keeping)
* * *
Honey sent us a composite of Katerina, Eleni and Vasiliki, dear neighbours, who've been saying nice things about Alan's work which is now focused on the porch below the near completed balcony.
Email from Honey earlier in the week:
...Leftheri has asked Alan where he can get a cornice mold like the one he used for your balcony. I'm surprised at how all the neighbors come and admire the work being done. The old woman across the street has gotten so enthusiastic about it, she has offered you a 6 foot plant with purple flowers that climbs. I told her that you didn't know yet what you were putting on the pot spot and you could tell her when you come. You are still having your heat wave? Ha! First it's nonstop rain, now a long hot summer. You'll probably come here with a good tan. From England!
Dear Honey... Good things make more good things. It’s not just a porch, stairs, railings and balcony...What a joy to see our dear neighbours together. Next time you see them send our love and let them know how we look forward to being with them again...those people whose kindness we value so much laughing together in front of Alan’s porch. I think there’s an energy in the village at a bad time for Greece that goes with the news that the old band building is going to be restored and there’s a real prospect that the football pitch down by St Athanassios will be made playable, and a fine new wall around St.Nicholas Church on the way into the village, and then there’s all the improvements in a time of unprecedented recession being carried out on different houses in Ano Korakiana.
*** Corfucius publicises a rather good new free service advertising events on the island.
** ** ** My friend and colleague Prof Tony Bovaird has gives predictions about the impact of public spending cuts in the UK - his blog giving an opportunity to narrowcast what he couldn't cover in Tuesday's broadcast interview on BBC Midlands Today. There's 'bad news and good news'.
...Of course, you may well be able to turn from the Big State to get some help from the Big Society. But there’s likely to be bad news there, too. The recession has increased the number of people volunteering to help out others – but reduced the capacity of third sector organisations to use them productively, because they too are short of funds to organise themselves.
So, some tips:
• Don’t get ill (just protecting NHS spend won’t be enough to provide the likely number of future users with current service quality levels).
• Don’t let anyone you depend on for support get ill (or leave the neighbourhood).
• Be (VERY) nice to your neighbours (you may be needing them a lot more in future).
• Start saving – if you need any public service in the future, you may well not be able to get it or you may have to pay a large part of it when you do get it.
• If you’re young, start learning a foreign language (you may need to go abroad if you want a public sector job in the future – or a public service).
• Take up ‘easy access’ leisure activities like walking and birdwatching – anything that requires public sector provision, like swimming or sports centres, may be too expensive for you or too far away from you in the future.
It’s a pity that the coalition government parties don’t want to talk about these inevitable consequences of their decisions. The new era of ‘transparency’ is being spun as fast as the previous era of ‘transformation’...
** ** ** On gardening our allotment Paul Peacock sends me reassurance - of sorts 'Keep it up buddy - it's a marathon, not a sprint.'. I follow his podcasts on starting from scratch. We'll meet up on Thursday.
** ** **
Sir Muir Russell's report on the Climate Research Unit's (CRU) email leak/theft, though supportive of the science, will do rather little to erode the accelerated scepticism that followed last year's scandal at the University of East Anglia.
Climate science is a matter of such global importance, that the highest standards of honesty, rigour and openness are needed in its conduct. On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of CRU scientists, we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt
The second of the three key findings is positive for CRU:
In addition, we do not find that their behaviour has prejudiced the balance of advice given to policy makers. In particular, we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments. The report does find that issues relating to openness.
But we do find that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness, both on the part of the CRU scientists and on the part of the UEA, who failed to recognise not only the significance of statutory requirements but also the risk to the reputation of the University and, indeed, to the credibility of UK climate science.
We find that CRU’s responses to reasonable requests for information were unhelpful and defensive.
The biggest criticism relates to the 1999 WMO report:
…the figure supplied for the WMO Report was misleading. We do not find that it is misleading to curtail reconstructions at some point per se, or to splice data, but we believe that both of these procedures should have been made plain – ideally in the figure but certainly clearly described in either the caption or the text.
* * * On the Greek economic crisis there have been two competing 'narratives' about the Greek economic crisis - one os the story of a corrupt top-heavy public sector; the other is the story of a debt crisis precipitated by feckless banking practices:
...There are two key reasons why the Greek narrative has become a time-worn cautionary tale of people living beyond their means, rather than a case of financial irresponsibility on the part of bankers and investors...

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