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Saturday, 16 October 2010

The allotment

A shift in the soundscape. No cocks crowing nor barking dogs, or the rumble of planes out of Kapodistria; instead the waterfall sound of city traffic, so pervasive it slips from consciousness. Nor do I get glimpses of distant ships, soundless on the strip of sea between us and the mainland, gliding so slowly in and out of sight between the island contours.
Indoors once again the almost constant chatter of Radio 4 and newsak in English from the TV creating narratives, competing with my version, intruding new versions; having to be filtered, selected, filed, discarded - a job done for me in Corfu where I check the media irregularly, scanning front pages on newstands now and then; hearing what friends have noted as we eat together. I recall the Dean of Birmingham at a seminar decades ago saying when he wanted to know what was going on in the world he visited a convent, at that time almost a closed order, sat in a small reception room, until a nun came to chat with him from behind a grill. "Less involved in the world, they knew more about it. Their insights cut through the buzzing blooming confusions."
Lin drove to Cannock to see her parents, taking a sack of apples from our tree here and lemons, only now beginning to turn yellow, from the garden in Ano Korakiana. The squash given us by Vasiliki just before we left sits on the kitchen counter after the journey from Democracy Street.
The morning was grey with light drizzle. Opened the garage, took out and unfolded my Corfu green Brompton - unused seven weeks. Pumped its tyres to street pressure. In waterproof clothes with a neck warmer, long johns under my jeans and my yellow Gill ventilator, I cycled familiar roads; Wycliffe, Hamstead, Hockley flyover, Great Hampton, Constitution Hill, St Chads Circus, Snow Hill Queensway, into Bull Street and Corporation Street, weaving in and out of the city traffic mingling with pedestrians on New Street, to the main post office in Hill Street where I mailed a complimentary copy of her book Alibis of Empire sent here by Karuna Mantegna for me to forward to my mum in Scotland; bought rail tickets for a course I'm running with a friend in the New Forest, bumping into Robin C on the concourse; sent an invoice for work done yesterday on campus on our Community Governance and Leadership module; bought a longer saddle stem for my bicycle in Corfu; bought a new pair of shoes at the market; had a late lunch with my son Richard and his friend E at Café Soya. I find myself muttering "νὰ εὔχεσαι νἆναι μακρὺς ὀ δρόμος, γεμάτος περιπέτειες, γεμάτος γνώσεις" as I pedal - a pledge to get as familiar as I can with this language and the understandings it brings.
Robin, when I met him at New Street, refused to accept my money for having paid our plot rent a few days ago. "I'm using your shed - when it arrives - for my garden tools. OK?" Later he emailed:
There's a perfectly good unused shed (not huge but not small either) at bottom of my parent's garden in Studley - 17 miles away...inaccessible due to ivy overgrowing the door.  So no-one's been inside for some years (except numerous tegenaria domestica / tegenaria gigantea (as in arrgggghhh!!!!)). Is crammed full of remnants of furniture and other junk, but none of it has been accessed for years so would hardly be a big deal....So may be an option.  What think? Chs Robin
Do you have the dimensions of your footings? And how burglar proof does it have to be?  I'm thinking in terms of just sheltering a minimum of hand tools (very cheap nowadays) rather than the motorised etcs that others are into.  Paul's got a hand-mower. I guess any scythes would be more of an issue as they are not so cheap or obtainable. This morning I can see the frost on all the roofs below and yet my outside thermometers say 5 on the morning side and 4 on the evening side -- due to the height! -r
R. The footings are 10' x 8'. I meant them to be larger than the shed footprint. When levelled and slabbed we'll have a good outside flat surface for sitting. On security. If someone wants to break in they will. Protection from theft needs to be communal. S
I cycled over to Plot 14 to see how my potatoes are coming along. Some are growing well; others are looking spindly, leaves patched brown, some riddled with holes. It's not surprising. I planted them just before we left for Greece on 29 August, without allowing them time to chit. August, as everyone tells me, is far too late to sow spuds. I've hoed weeds and earthed up the rows. Two little potatoes fell free. My first crop.
In the evening Lin and I went over to have supper with Jill. We shared commonplaces, but before we left were debating the use of torture by the Americans and the British, and the obscene excuse that this is to protect us, to let us sleep in our comfortable beds in the West.
St.Mary's Church, Handsworth, Birmingham
I realised that one thing about my mother's visit to us in Corfu that I regretted missing was a meeting with Lefteris and Vasiliki and family next door where we would have laced our conversation with musical chat. Where we might not have been able to speak the same language in words we'd have sung and hummed from our musical learning, not bounded by classifications like classical, folk, popular, symphony or opera...
** **
Mowing the overgrown wet lawn I collected a pound of rather green quince fallen from the old tree in our front garden. You can use quince for many things. If I were in Ano Korakania I could give them to various people who'd make jam and other dishes. I'm helpless, ignorant about what to do. Easier to put them in the compost or leave them on the ground.
Later: Heck. I'm having a go. Peel and halve, remove pips without coring and put in a pan with sugar, squeezed lemon from the village with abit of its flesh and a few stripes of peel, Bring to boil and simmer. Let's see what happens.

A hour later Lin takes a sip from the suacepan on a teaspoon "Eeuugh! That's so sour" Pooter adds honey...and a little more honey. "Try it now?" "Hmm? You could use it with pork like apple sauce." I seive the liquid and decant it into an old honey jar. See how it matures. I guess I should have left the fallen quinces to go yellower before boiling them. It's the first time in the 35 years we've lived here that I've ever done a thing with the fruit of our quince.
When it comes to preparing food Mark has the craft. Indeed all of them - Mark and Sally, Paul and Cinty, are people I'd enjoy watching when it comes to turning the raw into the cooked from growing, hunting, picking, buying, butchering, boiling, baking, roasting and serving.
Sally's not keen on gatherings where people collect or are served their food, and then take their plate away to eat on their own or in smaller groups. "We should eat together around a table."
Mark serves a royal roast
So also our closest neighbours
Lefteris and Vasiliki with their grandson, Lefteris
I'd be foolish to suggest that foreigners who come to live in Ano Korakiana instinctively maintain the traditions of the village, but what makes Ano Korakiana their home rather than just a place is that those who come to live there, learn, respect its customs and continue its traditions, to the best of their ability. Thus they continue the life of the village, adding something of their own. Not changing their character nor rejecting their own heritage, indeed proud of their origins but taking pleasure from the mingling of separate worlds.

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