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Thursday, 31 March 2011

"When two or three are gathered together..."

Lands End to St Davids Head including the Bristol Channel

Strong winds are forecast
For coastal areas up to 12 miles offshore from 0600 UTC Thu 31 Mar until 0600 UTC Fri 01 Apr

24 hour forecast:

SW 6 to gale 8, decreasing 4 or 5, increasing 5 to 7 later.
Sea State
Moderate or rough, but mainly slight in Bristol Channel.
Occasional rain or drizzle.
Moderate or good, occasionally poor.
It's rained in the night. In our garden, as far from the sea as anyone can be in the United Kingdom, a mild wind sighs, hums in the glazing casements, almost making exclamations; gusting it jogs the house, sending a rumble through the building; outside the garden windmills - multicoloured - spin frantically, shaking for take-off, the daffodils bend back and forth, shrubs stir; cherry blossom flies, spreading over the front lawn, driveway, waste bins, recycling boxes, crazy paving, sticking to the windows of Lin's car, floating into the street.
The wind this far inland is spent, carrying - if not the smell - at least the damp mildness of  coastal weather in Spring, and the clouded sky, leaks now and then a flash of watery sun to brighten the garden, as it sweeps over the city. Our in-tray of errands seems piled as high as ever, finishing with packing late tonight for a coach to Manchester Airport on Friday morning, for our flight to Greece. Mark in Ano Korakiana to whom I'm bringing a little pack of Larsen springs for magpie traps writes 'weather here right now is rather lovely and is forecast to be for certainly the next few days. Safe journey'. John our neighbour taps at the porch and Oscar leaps, barking for the front door, to spend the day in his other home, where he'll be far longer while we're away. Of greatest importance in our small world is an emergency meeting of the old and possibly new Board of the Central Handsworth Practical Care Project.  Mike Tye from Birchfield Residents, respected in the area, will chair tonight

          CHPCP - Emergency Meeting - 1900
AGENDA -  Chair: Michael Tye
1. Introductions
2. The situation
3. What’s been done
4. Next steps – appointment of board, debts, vehicles, constitution
5 Collection of committee members details
6. AOB
7. Next meeting
Meantime I must complete a proposal for a three evening scrutiny programme for a the new elected members of conjoined East Anglian councils - due in by 1 April. I must ring the triage doctor at our surgery for a prescription, stir the compost, phone various others, digest the fact that our local councillor Mahmood Hussain has been deselected by his party after twenty years, replaced by someone called Hasseem, closer to our local MP Khalid Mahmood, and and and....
*** ***
On April 5 at lunchtime Aleko our Greek teacher in Corfu - shared with other learners at Sally's place in Ipsos - is finishing his latest series of lessons, most of which we've missed through being in UK, with a test - not to be written down but to be said. Lin says "I can't do it" but I'm optimistic, even if we have to do a good bit of homework before next Tuesday:

Who is it? (man or woman)
Peter is looking at the television
Who is looking at the television?
Andreas smokes a lot
Who smokes a lot?
Is your friend handsome/pretty Andrea?
Yes, he is very handsome/she is very
What colour are his eyes?
What colour are her eyes?
His eyes are blue
Her eyes are blue
His hair?
Her hair?
I don’t know. I think it is black
Yes, black
The poor man (not rich!)
The rich man
My garden is big
Yesterday was Sunday
The day before yesterday was Saturday
Three days ago it was Friday
Now I am here
One hour ago I was at my house
Where were you Maria, one hour ago?
I was in my garden
I was with my sister
You were here one hour ago?
**** ****
It was always said and strongly believed for many centuries that adding highways to the landscape could only help increase a region's prosperity. People using the new Egnatia Highway to get swiftly to hospital in Thessaloniki from the western shores of Greece must see this as true as the Roman strategists who drove the Via Egnatia,  on almost the same route, through Illyricum, Macedonia, and Thrace 200 years before Christ. It is the universality of the believe that roads mean wealth that should be challenged. In the 21st century some are starting to think differently about the general view that roads are a common good, thinking, even, that removing them from some places may actually add to the worth of a place.

Moving Beyond the Automobile: Highway Removal from Streetfilms on Vimeo.
Should I regard the lack of continued funding for building the Ionian Highway and other Greek motorway projects as a problem? Perhaps it's opportune; a timely delay in the pouring of yet more hectares of concrete across the Hellenic landscape. Some would regard the depression of the 1980s in Birmingham as timely in that it halted the continued construction of roads through even more of the city centre; delaying one set of ideas about urban design while others had time to assert themselves, so that now areas once reserved for motorised traffic have become squares and boulevards for walking and cycling, sitting about and playing, and, in some cases, living, as our city centre becomes re-populated with people who actually like living there.
*** ***
1900 and ten people are assembled around our kitchen table - Linda B, Charles Bate, Leslie Pinder, Edmund Branch, Chris Hryniuk, Byron Kennedy, Mike Tye, Nigel Smith, Denise Forsyth and me.
After a moment's silence suggested by Mike, in the chair, to remember Glynis and "reflect on what the project is about" and what might be involved in setting it to rights, we set to work. Two and quarter hours later, sans peursans reproche, but with careful analysis to get our heads around the challenges ahead, and no time wasted on self-serving diversions, we'd dispersed into the night, with shared optimism that 'our' project could be carried on; its debts to a few people cleared; its main work set to expand. If you'd predicted this when Edmund first came round to see us in mid-January I'd have had doubts. It's a delight to have the fortune and privilege to work with like-minded people, so various in character and background, resolved to get this right.
From Greece, with email and skype we can stay in touch. Our next meeting is agreed.  That's when we shall get enough people from the formal Board overseeing the project to attend, so that a Chair, Treasurer and Secretary plus supportive roles can be agreed. I must now type up an old draft of the constitution unearthed and brought to the meeting by Leslie, so we can adapt it to the present, possibly adopting charitable status a complex business, the paperwork for which is almost completed. Everyone took part. All used the pronoun 'we'. "When two or three are gathered together in thy Name thou wilt grant their requests." I muttered this near the end of the evening and remembered the first time I'd met Edmund was with his son Joseph years ago when they'd knocked on our door on Saturday morning - Jehovah's Witnesses, and I'd asked them in, as I usually do, for a theological debate.
*** ***
Dotted round the front lawn this morning, the little mounds of sand bees.
With the predictable assumptions of our species first thing found on the internet about them is how to kill them. Quote: 'Bees are extremele important to the ecosystem, so they should be left alone if possible, but never at the expense of your or your family's safety.' I harbour an eccentric reflex to question that admonition.

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