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Saturday, 23 October 2010

Getting ready for Australia

Scrutiny seminar for New Forest District Council
It was a super course; Mark confident and articulate with explanation and animation; Janine making flip chart notes summarising discussions; members enthusiastic; scrutiny chairs present of course but also the Leader and several cabinet portfolio holders keen to discuss ways they could work in concert, interdependently – each entity - scrutiny and executive – understanding each other’s functions, not glossing over the necessary tensions defined by their separate roles  in the working of the council. Excellent evaluations. 
Afterwards Mark gave me a lift to Brockenhurst where I had two hours to kill. Browsed in a bookshop and bought a book I’d not heard of – An Island in Time: the Biography of a Village by Geert Mack; about the Frisian village of Jorwert (pop 330 and falling) in the northern Netherlands. ..the biography of a village during the 'silent revolution that swept through Europe between 1945 and 1995'. Without being sentimental about the hardness of pre-industrialised agriculture he documents:
...the turning point at which for the first time in history there were more people living in towns than in the country…an historical volte face comparable to the abandonment of nomadic hunting and gathering in favour of the static farmer’s life…the consequences of this great migration, for those who have eyes to see it… farmers and their children who have been cast adrift… in the churches of Warsaw, in the grey tower blocks of Bilbao, in the refugee city of Sarajevo, in the doorways of drab Amsterdam suburbs, the cigarette vendors on Istanbul’s Galata bridge…millions of poor factory girls in China…derelict farmsteads in Ireland and Southern Europe…dried up communal washing facilities in French villages…farmhouse conversions on the outskirts of London…overgrown terraces on the slopes of the Pyrenees, the empty and impoverished villages in Poland and Portugal
I bought fish and chips in Brockenhurst; took them to the station waiting room. Engrossed in the pleasures of eating and reading I missed my train to Birmingham. I was helpfully guided to another, which with a change at Winchester would get me home before midnight. I’d bought a dedicated ticket for the 1900 service yet both train managers used their discretion and spared me the extra fare due. “No problem, mate” I felt inordinately grateful wondering if I’ve become nicer or people more decent. 
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Meantime I’ve been running over the itinerary of our coming journey to Australia and New Zealand, working through a travel agent in Bendigo, to visit Melbourne, Brisbane, Mackay, Launceston in Tasmania and Dunedin and Wellington in New Zealand. It’s my third visit working first with John Martin, and on my own in New Zealand. Lin, coming too, is excited at going again to the other side of the world, yet balks at the prospect of surrendering to my diary; taking a time-limited walkabout in a new city; meeting up at a necessary time; dashing off again first thing. In forty years we’ve steered off‘togetherness’, enjoying the possibilities that arise from sharing spaces, houses and beds. I console myself that over five weeks the tighter schedule will last hardly ten days and that just perhaps, weather, food and company will compensate for having to be ‘Simon’s wife’…but I understand her feelings too well.  
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Miriam copied me this;
Has to be done!
Love, MM

Miriam with Sara at a tented community south of Hebron

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