Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Liverish weather

...Tomorrow at 1230 the Chancellor will announce details of the Comprehensive Spending Review. I gave blood for the ninety second time today at the donor centre in New Street. Two nurses did a sort of double act routine around me, cheering me up as they practised calming nervous donors. The sky was clear as I cycled home, only clouding over in the afternoon, rain growing heavier with the dusk.
Yesterday we got round to lifting and removing part of our kitchen top. Its imitation wood grain formica has lifted  off the slab of chipboard we installed twenty years ago. Washing up water has been soaking into it for years. It's become a disintegrating sponge covering a damp fetid space. We detached its heavy soggy mass. Pieces of it detached and fell on floor, smelling like leaf mould. Several rather beautiful nacreous slugs had attached themselves to the underside of the sodden work surface. I dumped the mess on our driveway beside pulped masses of paper set aside for recycling. Our road and its damp green verges is full of litter blown from recycling boxes put out for today's collection. Rain has soaked the litter pasting it to the ground amid caked decaying leaves. The air is clammy and chill. It's not that cold, certainly not freezing, yet I find it difficult to keep warm. I've got a toothache and no dental appointment until Monday. I'm in a condition that used to be called liverish, where the weather outside matches an interior feeling of torpidity.
In pursuit of learning more about the Balkans, I've bought The Bridge over the Drina by Ivo Andrić, recommended to me by a Serbian couple I spoke to in the shop on the top of Mount Pantokrator a month ago. I've also ordered another Ismail Kadare - The Successor. I'm engrossed in Maria Strani's The Cat of Portovecchio. This is an author I've met and spoken to; a Corfiot and a Greek who feels as strongly about the island as anyone I know or don't know. Born and raised on Kerkyra Maria knows what others have discovered; not a disappointed returnee griping at the desecration of an invented paradise, but raging eloquently against the despoliation of her birthplace - not by foreigners but by her neighbours and countrymen. She only hints at such feelings in The Cat, a book which, without sentimentality or nostalgia, records in absorbing, sometimes compelling detail, the worst and best of life in Portovecchio - a barely fictional Corfiot village - 60 years ago, just before the world changed forever.
Maria just sent me a message on Facebook: Please do send me five words that explain your love for Corfu; just words, nor phrases.
Me: Πέντε λέξεις; Το χωριό, ελιές, φιλοξενία, τραγούδι, θάλασσα...but you know that I am so blindly in love with Greece from my youth as to be a useless critic. The place makes me cry just to hear it spoken of when I'm not there and I count it my greatest good fortune to have the privilege and joy of living in part of it. So if you want any sort of sensible thought about the government or the economy better wash your hands of me, dear Maria. xx Simon Σάïμον και Λίντα (If you'd given me a 6th word I would have added Linda my wife even when we are arguing as we often do)
When I said ελιές I meant τα ελαιόδεντρα - the olive trees - the canopy of green and silver leaved trees which in their abundant enveloping proliferation, thanks to ancient Venetian incentives to the country people of Corfu, are the island's signature, matched in the colour of doors, shutters and railings.
and when I said το χωριό - village - I meant especially Democracy Street - Οδός Δημοκρατίας  - in Ano Korakiana where gradually we are becoming friends, and when I said τραγούδι I really meant the music as well as the singing, and when I said τη θάλασσα I meant...
'... green and incredibly exciting!'
And when I said 'the sea' I meant...
...and I've liked to have added μαγείρεμα - cooking. Maria in the Cat writes like Homer about the exquisite detail of preparing meals, for pleasure, for distraction, for love...and when I said η φιλοξενία - an untranslatable melding of kindness, friendship and hospitality - my heart becomes too full of remembered and anticipated happiness to write with more than borrowed words:
εαν ταις γλωσσαις* των ανθρωπων λαλω και των αγγελωναγαπη δε μη εχω, γεγονα χαλκος ηχων κυμβαλον αλαλαζον. και εαν εχω προφητειαν και ιδω τα μυστηρια πανταωστε ορει μεθυστανην. αγαπην δε μη εχωουδε ημη. η αγαπη μακροθυμηη αγαπη ου ζηλει, η αγαπη ου περπερευεται, ου φυση ουτε. η αγαπη παντα στεγει, παντα πιστευει, παντα ελπιζει, παντα υπομενειη αγαπη ουδεποτε εκπιπτει ειτε δε προφητειαι καταργηθησονταιειτε γλωσσαι παυσονταιειτε γνωσεις καταργηθησετε Νυνη δε μενει, πιστις, ελπις, αγαπη, τα τρια ταυτα, μειζον δε τουτων η αγαπη.
*The music link above is the 'Song for the Unification of Europe' composed by Zbigniew Preisner, sung in Greek by Elżbieta Towarnicka - an abridged version of 1 Corinthians:13, from the soundtrack of Krzysztof Kieślowski film 'Bleu'.
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House of Commons 20 Oct 2010: ' Today we have naming of parts...'

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