Saturday, 1 January 2011

"Celebrations of yesteryear..."

Saint Basil visits - 31 December 2010
"Γιορτές μιας άλλης εποχής..." - In beloved Ano Korakiana an elder of the village remembers "celebrating holy days 50 years ago, lacking today's material essentials, looking forward to the treats that came for all us children; decorating the tree on Christmas Eve. How I cried when rain stopped my mother going out to cut the traditional cypress.'
Πολλά χρόνια πίσω....Δεκαετία του '60...
Ήμουν παιδί και περίμενα όπως όλα τα παιδιά του χωριού μας τις Άγιες μέρες, για να διανθίσουμε τη ζωή μας με κάποιες μικροχαρές που αυτές οι μέρες φέρνουν. Ζήσαμε στερημένοι από υλικά αγαθά. Είχαμε μόνο τα απαραίτητα, αλλά τώρα που το σκέφτομαι τα ουσιώδη... 
Παραμονή Χριστουγέννων στολίζαμε το δέντρο. Περιμέναμε πως και πως τη στιγμή, που οι μανάδες μας θα έβρισκαν λίγο χρόνο για να πάμε να κόψουμε το παραδοσιακό κυπαρίσσι. Πόσα δάκρυα έριξα, τις παραμονές που έβρεχε και αδυνατούσαμε να πάμε για το κόψιμο. Κι όταν επιτέλους στηνόταν σε κάποια γωνιά, άρχιζε το στόλισμα. «Κουτούλια» τυλιγμένα σε τσιγαρόχαρτο, πλαστικά χτενάκια, κουκλάκια, κάρτες και τέλος μπαμπάκι...πολύ μπαμπάκι για να γεμίσουν τα κενά...γιατί η διακόσμηση ήτανε κι αυτή στερημένη! 
Κι ερχόταν η ώρα για τα κάλαντα. Γυρνούσαν τα παιδιά στις γειτονιές να πούνε τα ''Κορακιανίτικα'' κάλαντα...[τα έχουμε κι αυτά ξεχάσει προ πολλού].Δεν ξέρω ακόμη το λόγο, αλλά λίγες φορές συμμετείχα σε αυτό το δρώμενο. Ντρεπόμουν να χτυπάω πόρτες και να ζητάω λεφτά. 
'But at last the tree would be set up in a corner. The decorating began. Little gifts wrapped in paper - plastic combs, dolls, cards and even cotton-wool to fill the gaps; then it was time us children to go around singing the traditional carols...I was always ashamed to ask for money... and I forget...' (and my translation falters).
...now on New Year's eve 2010 today's children of Ano Korakiana dressed in red caps parade through the village and the real Saint Basil -  Greece's Santa Claus - arrives, musicians in tow, calling at forty homes with gifts for the kindergarten children...
Κατά το σούρουπο, ήρθε πραγματικά ο Άη Βασίλης στο χωριό και μαζί με τη μουσική κομπανία του, πέρασε από όλα τα σπίτια των μικρών παιδιών (νηπιαγωγείου και κάτω) για τα Κάλαντα και για ένα συμβολικό δώρο στα μικρά, που ανυπόμονα και εκστασιασμένα, περίμεναν. Η γύρα ήταν μεγάλη, αφού κάλυψε όλη την περίμετρο του οικισμού, ξεκινώντας από την Ακλερή, του Λαγουδέρη και τους Άγιους Πάντες και «μπαίνοντας» στη συνέχεια στις γειτονιές του χωριού.
** ** **
The path in the wood
There's a path matted with larch needles and birch leaves that winds through the woods behind Brin Croft through which I trudged, almost soundlessly, on the last day of the year; a path on which I'd meet Red Riding Hood; catch a glimpse of something pokerish moving through the woods beside me or see a stump I'd passed already, where Rupert Bear would meet a magic stranger.
The dogs ranged back and forth, disappearing and appearing, catching winter scents. Amy's second dog, Malo - a Brittany Spaniel - disappeared, left the four dog pack as I walked by Farquar's farm on my way to the wood. I thought he'd work his way home to Brin Croft, so continued my walk. Once returned I found he was still lost; had been sighted on the main road. Guy and Amy searched with their car; friends were phoned and promised to keep looking about; then Malo was back having found his own way home after ranging almost to Farr School, a mile away on the other side of the Farnack, narrowly missed by several drivers.
****
Friends came for supper at Brin Croft - champagne, superlative roast goose, ice cream and apple pie. Later we stood in light drizzle as Guy carefully set off - one by one - some disappointingly undramatic fireworks. "I won't come out to watch. Anyway, I'm not that interested in New Year" said my Mum. Most of us agreed "Especially" she added "I hate singing Auld Lang Syne and holding hands." 2011 begins.
Margie, James, Christina and Amy watching a firework outside Brin Croft
The next day Amy and I went to Dores and strolled, with the dogs, along the long pebble beach at the eastern end of Loch Ness. Hardly a sign of ice or snow; a matte greyness flattened the landscape of the great glen. As we walked the dogs roaming around us encountering other people and their dogs we discussed the behaviour and character of our four and how they got on with one another - the bitches Lulu, a border terrier hybrid, and Cookie, a cocker spaniel hybrid, then the dogs, Oscar a Jack Russell Border terrier mix and Malo, a Brittany spaniel; all biddable never roaming too far but varying in confidence with age. How I enjoy the sombre light of the Highlands, the dreich and the coastal haars, sudden gales, waking to the pierce of the wind before dawn, muddy dogs, damp sheep, ticks, hot baths, malt whisky and log fires and the midges we can avoid that keep people away in summer. My knee is hurting somewhere at the back and makes me limp, especially on slopes, but a good long thumb stick helped me along.

*** ***
In Australia as the summer approaches, people in places, where I was working last November, like Longreach, Cairns, Mackay and Brisbane in Queensland are suffering severe flooding or preparing for it  as rain continues (ACT = Australian Capital Territory, e.g. Canberra, NSW = New South Wales) (4 January '11 images)
But not to be entirely depressing John sent me this email from home in Bendigo on 30 December. Round this time last year he and Annie were preparing for the threat of bush fires, and south east Australia was suffering the effects of a thirteen year drought:
Hi Simon, I have just come in from the pool, a refreshing dip after a 50km training ride. Summer is in full swing. Cicadas buzz about as the days warm up. Cricket fans in mourning, and everyone thinks the captain should resign. The fuss sells the tabloids. I am working on several papers between completing our tax return from last year ...Just had an email from my daughter-in-law who is off to the tube park in Whistler (sliding down the slopes on car inner tubes) and you guys in Scotland where I expect it is also snowy white. New Year's eve forecast is 38C! Regards to Lin, Cheers John and Annie
*** ***
As I have in the past, at the request of a fan of my late stepfather, I've streamed a couple more episodes from his 1980s TV series Old Country, successor to Out of Townaired on Southern Television. Over the first 13 minutes, before the commercial break, JH talks of the evolution of the fishing rod from handmade greenheart to factory made carbon fibre and beyond. In the second half he shares thoughts about ways angling has changed in Britain since he was a boy:

Jack Hargreaves fishing from Simon Baddeley on Vimeo.
Our cattle are kept close together in yards and milking parlours; transported in trucks rather than driven on foot by drovers. Horns are seldom seen except on ornamental breeds. In the second of these two films Jack talks about new and old breeds of cattle - Shorthorn, Friesian or Holstein, Guernsey, Jersey, Ayrshire, Hereford, Aberdeen Angus, Charolais, Simmental and - perhaps provocatively - Suffolk (' a bit like the Red Devon') with horns. I'd like to know who breeds such cattle now. My step-father ponders the hype-driven balance of English and imported breeds, the greater difficulty of identifying dehorned cattle and their respective merits of different cattle for beef, butter and milk. I keep the long horns shown at the start.

Jack Hargreaves on breeds of cattle from Simon Baddeley on Vimeo.
Seeing this film made twenty years ago I'm aware how our - my - preference for cheap milk increases the likelihood that cows will disappear from fields, ceasing to live out of doors as more and more of them are enclosed in larger and larger milking parlours, kept constantly pregnant, serviced by more and more ingenious mechanisation. This is a trajectory that had momentum even when my grandmother was milking forty Jerseys - all with names - on Mill End dairy farm where I was born, denigrated by my stepfather as a 'hobby farmer'.
On Gypsy at Mill End Dairy Farm
Me on Gypsy, my grandmother on the hay at Mill End, Clavering 1944
With me and a million others at the end of a mighty retail chain, the drive to deliver us the lowest priced milk drives more and more farmers out of business and leads us towards the logic of big shed milking of the kind seeking planning permission in Lincolnshire - a test planning case for introducing a type of milk farming that is normal in the USA. Refining counter-arguments to the relentless command of increased mechanisation over our understanding of how to cope with the world is Peter Lundgren, a local farmer in Lincolnshire who's founded FARM to comprehend and challenge the logic of these seemingly inevitable developments. He's not alone. [Petition against Nocton's aimiably argued case in North Kestevan, Lincs]
*****
Joyce Manyan - roped in to play HM
George Baddeley - my half Greek half-brother - is a co-founder of Silver Comedy - a brilliant example of social entrepreneurship weaving stand-up and sketch comedy into the scary world of dementia, via, among other things a Mockumentary, which George told me about when we met at Liverpool Street before Christmas - a spoof Royal Visit to the Grange day centre in Haringey that stirred up memories, positive and negative, of the real thing. (Silver Comedy on Facebook)

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