Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Coming home

On Sunday as we set out from Melbourne Tullamarine to fly home to England the village musicians, singers and dancers were performing in the Municipal Theatre of Corfu,  Dr Spyros Savvani - centre right in the picture - president of the Korakiana Philharmonia spoke of the treasure of Ionian heritage - especially its music.
Πραγματοποιήθηκε απόψε (Κυριακή 5-12-2010) με επιτυχία στο Δημοτικό Θέατρο Κέρκυρας η «Επτανησιακή Γιορτή» με διοργανώτρια τη Φιλαρμονική Κορακιάνας, Στη σημασία της εκδήλωσης για την εκπαίδευση των Ατόμων με Αναπηρίες του Συλλόγου «Μέλισσα» αναφέρθηκε η Πρόεδρος του Συλλόγου κα Ηρώ Μπούα, ενώ ο Πρόεδρος της Φιλαρμονικής Σπύρος Σαββανής προλόγισε την εκδήλωση αναφερόμενος στον πλούτο της επτανησιακής πολιτιστικής κληρονομιάς και στην ανάγκη ανάδειξης και ενίσχυσής της.
Around the same time, though its earlier in Australia we were on the top floor of a hotel on the edge of Melbourne Airport gathering our things and thoughts for the long journey home. We'd been long enough away, and I was now so accustomed to all that went with taking being in one place for granted that I could feel that ache in my stomach that goes with departures - dire adieu est mourir un peux - or as Chandler put it 'the bastards (the French) have a phrase for everything'. Yes...well. Over half a century later I'm affected by the sadness of a boy returning to boarding school. Even when, as here, I'm going home, looking forwarding to being back in England and seeing Amy and Richard and the dog Oscar and the garden and my allotment and Birmingham's German Market, and seeing friends, and Christmas coming, and then going up to the Highlands and then to beloved Greece only weeks after the New Year...I still recognise that ache of parting from the company and place we've shared for the last six weeks.
Holiday Inn, Melbourne: 'Murrumbidgee floods at Wagga Wagga'
Annie and John went out of their way to give us a great final sunday in Melbourne, starting the evening before with a supper on the Saturday, when just back from Tasmania, we ate together at the University Cafe on Lygon Street  before driving out to stay at a hotel convenient for the airport - five minutes from international departures - then from Sunday morning a good five hours in Queen Victoria Markets in the city centre. These are something special by way of markets containing, apart from many bargains, myriad superbly organised food counters from which people can pick and choose food to take home or take away to eat and drink there and then at tables and chairs in the market itself. Things to eat and drink from many nations were eagerly sold and bought - British, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, German, Korean, Greek, Italian, Turkish, Jewish, Syrian and Moroccan and ... you name it. Acres, in long lively covered avenues, of clothes, shoes, pot plants, a diversity of crafted artifacts. flags, paintings, posters, prints, souvenirs at bargain prices, jewellery - especially opals - stones, fossils, didgeridoos, boomerangs, dolls, teddies, soft fabric sharks, furry echidnia, plump wombats, musical roos and chiming koalas, crocs, platypus and singing birds and even a few real canaries and budgies, china ornaments, kitchenware, foot and head massage - there and then - music, films, computer and other electronics and abundant Christmas decorations...and so on and so on. A friendly sun cleared away the morning fog and the reminders of the days' of rain and mist we've seen in Australia and New Zealand. It was warm, dry and fresh. Blue sky. The Sunday morning markets bustling with energy on the edges of the tall glistening towers of the city.
We drove on to the beach at St.Kilda's where the breeze ruffled the peaty waters blowing spray towards the crowded beaches lined with tall palms. Sail boats healed across the small waves. Kite surfers and jetskiers sped back and forth well back from the shore, showing off to each other whirling and bouncing in zig-zags around the end of St Kilda's Pier. We strolled with other weekenders, some fishing from the pier, to the Kiosk, where we bought ice cream and watched the sea and the people.
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And so late on Sunday our wide bodied plane sets off on a shallow climb westward across the great continent on its way to the northern hemisphere. We have 7000 miles to Dubai then another 3500 to Birmingham, eleven hours time difference so that although we leave Australia late Sunday night, we're in Birmingham by monday noon.
Melbourne-Dubai-Birmingham. 11500 miles in 20 hours
I'd far prefer to spend 32-40 days on a ship to make this journey (or take the Trans-Siberia Railway for at least some of the way with ferries from the railhead at Vladivostock) - but the cost even one way is around £4000.
So here we fly a mile higher than mount Everest - 6 miles up - rumbling through the empty night sky, sat in cushioned chairs, reading, watching films - earphones plugged into arm-rests, listening to music, eating and drinking from drop tables. As the long leg of our journey continues cabin lights are dimmed but for a few personal pools of overhead light controlled by individual passengers or from the small screens on the back of every seat.
In economy two aisles running the length of the plane separate about 340 seats in cross-rows of ten - three, four, three - occupied by a reclining congregation of tranquil passengers from many nations, of many ethnicities and ages, solitary and paired, men and women, new born humans blissfully unconscious, mother and baby, sometimes a father too, draped with blankets as in a nativity.
We fly over Broome on the north west of Australia; on to the Indian Ocean, then slowly - so ridiculous given an airspeed averaging 600 miles an hour - we travel parallel with the long islands of Indonesia, Java then Sumatra - crossing the equator again - across the empty space of the Indian Ocean, until near Sri Lanka we cross a major sea lane. Perhaps a watch gazing at the night sky, sees a small light moving across the sky, wondering for a moment if we're a plane or a satellite.  At last we leave the sea crossing southern India until somewhere on its west coast we are above the Arabian Sea heading for the Arabian peninsular and our stop, for a couple of hours, at Dubai. Then away again on another plane towards Europe, crossing Saudi Arabia, Iraq - passing over Baghdad and Mosul - until we are over Turkey, heading in morning light over the Black Sea near Trabzon, where they say, especially the persecuted Turkish writer Ömer Asan (his banned book: Ασάν, Ομέρ, Ο Πολιτισμός του Πόντου, Θεσσαλονίκη: Kyriakidis Brothers, 1998) there are people still speaking ancient Greek,
Where there they still speak ancient Greek
back to land over Constanta - where I've been long ago - on the shore of Rumania, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and into Germany, where I spy Linz - where  from 1914 Adolf Eichmann spent his childhood. Over Nürnberg, Frankfurt, Bonn, Düsseldorf, then the clouded North Sea to England - Norwich, Ely and there's Coventry on the screen. We descend under the sun into a crisp frosty snow glistened Birmingham. Our Amy's taken time off to drive us home from the  airport. She stays chatting as we sit around in our kitchen. I do some washing up. We begin tidying after leaving the house in the hands of our beloved Richard for six weeks. Oscar's bouncing, collected from his carer's John and Jo. Our fishponds are frozen. I boil water to make holes in the ice. The birds need more nuts.
We hadn't read about the shark attacks at Sharm Al Sheik while in New Zealand. Amy and Guy were enjoying a late honeymoon by the Red Sea, snorkelling close to where a tourist was killed a fortnight after they'd come home. One of the experts brought in by anxious authorities described the problem as being not one shark - as in Jaws - but several different species; "not an unpredictable series of attacks by a rogue shark, like a deranged shooter, but rational attempts by predators to find food."
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Good news about Greek human rights activists acquitted on Monday after being sued in Athens, after they'd criticised a Greek Supreme Court ruling on the acceptability of a deeply anti-semitic publication by Kostas Plevris, who left the right wing party LAOS to join an even further right party, now formally disbanded called Patriotic Alliance. This was the Appeals Court ruling that led to the criticism by members of the Greek Antinazi Initiative, (in Greek) and their subsequent prosecution for 'dissemination of false news':
In December 2007, Plevris was initially found guilty of inciting racial hatred by a Greek court based on excerpts and quotations in his book "The Jews: The Whole Truth". He appealed the court ruling and on the 27th of March 2009 the court of appeals completely overturned the ruling of incitement with 4-1 votes (my italics). Plevris was vindicated by the court, which accepted that his book did not lead to "incitement to racial hatred and violence against the Jews" by the 5-member court.
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At New Street Station on my way to London
Wikileaks is so far remaining on the internet by virtue of mass-mirroring on the 'I am Spartacus' principle. There's so little I know; so much that will be defined in retrospect. Am I watching a complicated re-working of democracy and the principle of free speech? Danica - friend and social web theorist in Belgrade - wrote me:
I am trying to focus on dissertation and I am big procrastinator and I feel guilty for not writing as days are short, time passes by and I don't see anything written but spending time online, reading the news, different opinions, and I may say I am confused with Julian, and I don't know is it good or bad that all documents are out there. Yes, we need transparent society and democracy but to reveal everything even if that would harm innocent ones?
The furore over intelligence published on the web by the Australian Julian Assange seems a test of the extent to which the world wide web can evade the control of governments - a cat and mouse game that has visceral appeal among the governed, not least because there are moments when it becomes unclear who's cat and who's mouse. Assange proclaims a levelling agenda, one approved by friends and allies in cyberspace. He's an inventive exploiter of the internet as a home for activities outside rulership or enforced authority; rich when I consider how it's given life to such mighty unanarchic entities as Google, Microsoft, Skype, eBay, Amazon, Yahoo and Apple and my much used Wikipedia, along with the proliferation of open source content management systems that have allowed, among other things, the spread of a million million blogs, and I haven't got to webporn. In addition we're seeing counter moves against entities like PayPal, Visa and Mastercard who've been subject to attempts at distributed denial of service - DDOS - following their refusals to process donations to Wikileaks. Some cat, some mouse! "Cyberwars", "Cyberstrife", "Cloudwars!" It isn't new but this seems especially prominent - raising old, and previously hypothetical, questions about the governance of cyberspace (see Governmentality - a chapter I wrote for a book on this in 1997).
I'm surprised no-one has used the internet to vex governments on such a scale before. Is that the result of a still recently wired world with far more people across the world able to join in a skirmish using technologies not available to Daniel Ellsberg decades ago, or even, more recently, Katherine Gun (who I've had the honour of meeting)?
Assange developed software to help human rights activists in authoritarian regimes to encrypt data so that their communications could not be intercepted. The documents released over the past year on Wikileaks had not been encrypted, even though his targets - the US, UK, China and Russia among others - are entirely capable of making their intelligence indecipherable. Why, if the released material is so sensitive, was it not encrypted? I glance at the possibility this is some sort of Operation Mincemeat aimed by US intelligence at Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran with collateral damage from revelations about our war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan - government-backed torture, the murder of civilians, corporate corruption - sacrificed as camouflage to Wikileaks - with Assange a victim or a collaborator, or somewhere in between. Then I think how unwise to get sucked into 'voodoo history'. On the other hand Wikileaks extends opportunities for disinformation, with new opportunities to invent and feed falsified leaks into cyberspace - Wikifakes. What is also intriguing is the way the mainstream press is playing the game, with the Guardian having received Wikileaks information passing it on to a foreign newspaper, the New York Times (and possibly others unnamed), with a view to sidestepping a UK gagging order.
The allegations against Assange in Sweden seem eccentric. A prosecutor there seeks not an arrest but a request for Assange to make himself available for questioning about alleged incidents that fall - ambiguously - between sexual assault - but not rape - and molestation; charges dismissed this August by one Swedish prosecutor, but taken up by another in another city, serving as a pretext for an arrest that could not be made for leaking secret intelligence, as Capone was indicted, tried and imprisoned, not for his violence as a gangster but for tax evasion. Meanwhile public figures who ought to know better call for Assange to be dealt with in a way that only enhances his standing as folk-hero (as the Telegraph points out).
Rebecca MacKinnon is a fellow at the New America Foundation, co-founder of the international bloggers' network Global Voices Online - to which I subscribe - and a founding member of the Global Network Initiative. In an essay special to CNN last week she wrote:
There are many ...who have made their views clear over the past week that WikiLeaks' 'cablegate' website should not be considered constitutionally protected speech. Others, however, believe equally strongly that now that the material is out, news media and website owners have the right to publish the material. What is troubling and dangerous is that in the internet age, public discourse increasingly depends on digital spaces created, owned and operated by private companies (my italics). The result is that one politician has more power than ever to shut down controversial speech unilaterally with one phone call....After suffering aggressive cyber attacks last weekend, Assange removed his 'cablegate' site from servers in Sweden and purchased a new home for it on Amazon's web hosting service. On Tuesday, Amazon talked on the phone with the office of Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate's committee on homeland security. Shortly thereafter, Amazon booted WikiLeaks.
Back to the future ~ 14/12/10: Why Michael Moore, with others, donated money to pay Assange's bail as set by Westminster Magistrates Court.
23/12/10: The fate of Bradley Manning who gave information to Wikileaks
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Delightful news from the Ano Korakiana website. Two young architects have offered their help with possible work on the Agricultural Co-op Association building - Αγροτικού Συνεταιρισμού - which we also know as the 'olive oil factory' on the lower road of the village, where we last enjoyed the evening party organised for Carnival 2010 in the village. It was originally built around 1900 and needs renovation and adaptation to new uses by the community. There's a picture on the website showing Celia Metallinos and her friend Lucia Ventura outside the building with Nikos Savvani, President of the Association. It'll be so so good if their voluntary efforts with the support of other villagers lead to a good result.
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Meanwhile in the Highlands it's a lot colder than in the English Midlands...
Mum with an icicle from the roof  (photo: Margi Fleming)

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post, such an exciting journey for Lin and you, welcome back home.
    Your mother looks awesome with the icicle, Hitchcock-resque Brit lady with the humour.

    ReplyDelete

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