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Sunday, 16 January 2011

A visit to Sheffield

Me and my friend
What a happy 24 hours! I caught a train and went straight to the stage door of the Crucible. And there after forty five years was my university friend, famous, bringing enjoyment to so many people including me. Miriam* had invited me see her in Me and My Girl in which she plays the Duchess and to have lunch. It seemed to me that she'd not changed in all this time, but then perhaps that's because she's hardly ever been out of public sight. I'm accustomed to her face as she's not to mine, yet we slipped into conversation as easy as it had always been with her when we were at university. "As I was saying..." when a near lifetime intervened. In the evening I sat in the stalls and was as happy watching the musical as at the party after carnival last February in Ano Korakiana. Me and My Girl is a tale that works in England especially; class divisions surmounted by love, a high point being the end of the first act when toffs, at first aghast, then hesitantly enthused, are drawn into the Lambeth Walk. Of course I knew the tune - everyone does - but I'd never seen it in its original setting, a musical which played from 1937-1942 (the year I was born) - bearer of the most resonant of class mixing narratives - including ours. My programme reminded me
...that it was seen three times by the King, George VI, and its tunes went round the world...Me and My Girl is about the clash between culture and class, love versus duty and of course, being true to one's roots, as well as having catchy tunes. At the heart of it is the song and dance number which Lupino Lane -  music hall character over a century, archetypal cockney costermonger - created, entitled The Lambeth Walk. The dance acts as a social mixer...becoming so popular in Berlin that a leading member of the Nazi Party apparently denounced it as 'Jewish mischief and animalistic hopping'.
I remembered a film clip I'd seen years ago referred to in my programme. In 1942 Charles Ridley of our Ministry of Information, purloined extracts from Leni Riefenstahl's grandiose celebration of Nazism and edited her ridiculous and hideous pictures of goose stepping stormtroopers so that they seemed to taking two steps forward, one step back, three steps forward, to the, by then, famous tune from Me and My Girl - rather good propaganda, especially as The Lambeth Walk was already popular in Germany, though officially condemned.

In the Crucible the audience was enraptured - prolonged clapping, cheers and whistling, as the number ended - and then after a crafty pause - was encored into our applause. There were other famous tunes - The sun has got his hat on, Leaning on a lamppost; lots in between; the cast working brilliantly together; entertaining us with songs, dances and jokes - verbal and visual - to an ever-enthusiastic audience. It was silly, sweet, innocent and good, and people, including me, had a happy evening.
After the show Miriam and I had a light supper, shared memories and promised to stay in touch. On Saturday morning, still in Sheffield, I strolled the town, chilly and windy; enjoyed a favourite treat, a tray of chips in curry sauce eaten outside the chippy. As time for my train approached I wheeled my bicycle down High Street. There was a demo outside Barclays, chanting against bonus payments for their rogue CEO with handheld posters - 'Rage Against the Bankers'. Further down the street, just opposite Boots, I was drawn to a violinist playing beautifully to the street. I listened, pretending it was age and the chill wind that made my eyes water so, until she gathered her things, including a deserved pile of small change and immeasurable pleasure. I felt light headed and light footed as I headed gently down to the railway station.
*Miriam's captured - in so far as that's possible - rather well in this extract from an Australian blog commenting on her performances there a few years back. I notice that her brave - far braver given her standing and the fact of being Jewish - stand against the expropriation of Palestinian land for Jewish-only communities. The idea of Miriam having to defend herself against even the imputation of anti-semitism (a vice deserving the seventh circle of hell) is a sign of the knot apologists for Israel's present actions have tied themselves in trying to fend off those who oppose her policies in Gaza. It's like accusing me of paedophilia for loving Richard and Amy.
** ** **
Monday I cycled into campus to sit in on a talk by my colleague Tony Bovaird on trends in co-production - ideas about public service provision drawing on the work of Elinor Ostrom on the government of common pool resources. The day was arranged for members of the Japan Local Government Centre on a two day visit from London. Tony made a point of signalling a greater sense among people in business that were things the public sector can do better, and a greater recognition within the public sector that there are things business can do better, and that if both long opposing sides could work together....he gave Emma Harrison's A4e as an example of public-private mutuality, pointing out that Harrison was child of a piratical capitalist that had cut swathes through the UK steel industry.
Prof Tony Bovaird at Priorsfield
...and here's LGIU's briefing on the Localism Bill.
In Ano Korakiana's there a meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the future of education in Greece, Corfu and the village with implications for the future of the village's kindergarten and primary school, hardly fifty yards from our house on Democracy Street.
Σύσκεψη πραγματοποιήθηκε σήμερα το απόγευμα στα γραφεία της Δημοτικής Κοινότητας Άνω Κορακιάνας, με πρωτοβουλία του Τοπικού Συμβουλίου και τη συμμετοχή του Διοικητικού Συμβουλίου του Συλλόγου Γονέων του Δημοτικού Σχολείου και του Νηπιαγωγείου του χωριού και κατοίκων. Η συζήτηση αφορούσε το Δημοτικό Σχολείο και τις προοπτικές του στο προσεχές μέλλον. Σύμφωνα με τις δηλώσεις του Αντιπροέδρου και των μελών του, το Τοπικό Συμβούλιο εγκαινιάζει έτσι, ένα νέο τρόπο «ανοικτής» λειτουργίας, προσέγγισης και συνεργασίας με τους κατοίκους. 
There was a meeting on 15 January at the offices of Ano Korakiana's local council of the school parent's association and other residents to discuss prospects for the school. The vice president and council colleagues supported a new way of  'open' operation, involving collaboration with residents.(Excuse my translation)
I am so aware of the vital role of a school in the sustainability of a village and before that the importance of young families being able to afford to live in the village when house prices have become so high because people like us buy homes there.

30 January 2011 - apprehensions about the future of the school in Ano Korakiana
The school in 1939 with 130 pupils

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