Tuesday, 1 November 2011

People said "No"


«ΟΧΙ του 1940» στο χωριό
An annual ceremony to celebrate Ochi Day in Ano Korakiana went off as usual. But when the village's band got to town its members encountered protests over the austerity policies of the present government...
Ano Korakiana's Band rehearsing a NO 1940 parade, cancelled because of NO 2011
...Λίγες ώρες αργότερα, στην πόλη της Κέρκυρας, μια τελείως διαφορετική εικόνα, με εστίες έντασης μπροστά από την εξέδρα των επισήμων, που «κατελήφθη» από τους διαμαρτυρόμενους και που οδήγησαν στην ακύρωση της παρέλασης και στη διέλευση των Φιλαρμονικών και των λοιπών σωμάτων από τον παραπλήσιο κεντρικό δρόμο, μέσω του Λιστόν…Μια εικόνα παρόμοια με αυτές που έζησαν πολλές πόλεις της χώρας. ΣΗΜ.: Η Φιλαρμονική μας, ίσα που πρόλαβε (όπως και οι άλλες Φιλαρμονικές) να κάνει την πρόβα της λίγο πριν την έναρξη της παρέλασης (που τελικά δεν έγινε)…Στην «καταληφθείσα» εξέδρα των επισήμων δεν έλειψαν και κορακιανίτικες παρουσίες (τουλάχιστον τρεις)…
NO 2011 on Spiniada
A celebration over 60 years old that takes place every 28 October across Greece got mixed up with another set of protests across Greece. The celebration was of course of the anniversary of Ochi Day - Επέτειος του «'Οχι». The protest was one of many continuing demonstrations against the austerity policies of the government. One blogger asks why parade and protest couldn't co-exist to make a seamless mingling of the two expressions of Οχι.
Τον ρωτάμε: Από ποιους κινδύνευε η μαθητική παρέλαση; Από τους γονείς των παιδιών που διαδήλωναν ειρηνικά; Από τους δασκάλους των παιδιών που διαδήλωναν ειρηνικά υλοποιώντας απόφαση της Γενικής τους Συνέλευσης; Μήπως από τους αόρατους κουκουλοφόρους; Μήπως είναι ψέματα πως καμία επέμβαση της αστυνομίας δεν χρειάστηκε; Μήπως είναι ψέματα πως οι διαδηλωτές με την καθοδήγηση του μαέστρου της φιλαρμονικής αλλά και των αστυνομικών «έπιασαν» ορισμένους χώρους για να μη δημιουργηθούν εμπόδια στην παρέλαση; Θεωρούμε πως οι λόγοι που πολιτικοί παράγοντες δεν ήθελαν να γίνει η μαθητική παρέλαση ήταν:  α. Η άρνηση νομιμοποίησης της πολιτικής διαμαρτυρίας με κεντρικό σύνθημα: « ΟΧΙ στο Ξεπούλημα του ελληνικού λαού». β. η δημιουργία εσωτερικής έντασης μεταξύ των Κερκυραίων συμπολιτών. 
The Metaxas myth: dictatorship and propaganda in Greece (2006) Marina Petrakis
How did Οχι Day come about? 71 years ago, on 28 October 1940, Mussolini ordered his ambassador in Greece, Emanuele Grazzi, to seek permission from the Greek dictator, Ioannis Metaxas, to allow Italian troops to occupy parts of Greece. The Italian dictator tried to pretend, with the pervasive and widely diffused lying that was refined during the early decades of the 20th century, that his ultimatum was a request. Italian forces would not actually 'invade'. They would 'occupy' certain strategic places in Greece.  Grazzi presented this demand to Metaxas early in the morning after a party at the German Embassy in Athens. Metaxas knowing this was invasion replied "Alors, c'est la guerre." At 0530  Italian troops stationed in Albania, then an Italian protectorate, crossed the border and Greece entered World War 2. In the morning Greeks took to the streets chanting the laconic 'Οχι'. Ioannis Metaxas comes over as a personal and political undesirable, little known outside Greece and, by and large, forgotten, except for 'Οχι' day. Metaxas was a professional soldier. He studied at the Preußische Kriegsakademie, the Prussian War Academy. King George II made him as minister of war in 1936. On the death of the then Prime Minister, Metaxas, claiming the need to prevent a communist takeover during a period of political instability and industrial unrest, proclaimed himself dictator on the 4 August - hence the historical name for his time in power Καθεστώς της 4ης Αυγούστου. Boys and girls were required to join a uniformed national youth organisation (EON - Εθνική Οργάνωσις Νεολαίας); a two headed axe on their caps.
EON badge
The communist party was outlawed; its leaders imprisoned, though unlike so many authoritarian regimes no mass killings were instituted; there's no evidence any were planned; there were no political murders. Metaxas did not introduce the death penalty, nor, for all his emphasis on the Hellenic race, did he promote anti-semitism. He advocated a Third Hellenic Civilization embracing the values and ideals of the ancient Greeks, and the Byzantine empire, presenting Metaxas as 'the First Peasant', 'the First Worker', 'the National Father of the Greeks'. He adopted the title of A'rkhigos, portraying himself as a 'Saviour of the Nation. He encouraged military uniforms, greetings, songs and rituals, including the Roman salute.
Metaxas died in January 1941, ten weeks before a German invasion ordered by Hitler to support his ally following Italy's overwhelming defeat Greek soldiers in the snow covered mountains of Albania - an event that delayed Hitler's invasion of Russia long enough to ensure his armies fell into the clutches of General Winter.
** ** **
It's been raining steadily. I'm pedalling through pools of water doing errands, feeling warm and dry, with a Gill jacket, Sprayway trousers and Stetson waxed cap - products of 15 years' experience cycling all year round. Lin picked these up second hand in England and Greece. They last. They work and they're expensive if you have to buy them new.
Wet day on the Birmingham Mainline Canal
I've turned up by invitation to have a flu jab at our local health centre.

I'm wearing an actigraph round my waist designed to measure my activities over a week as part of the Healthy Ageing Research in which I'm a subject.
I've just had Richard take photos so I can renew my passport - a fee of £77.50; a form filled in on line and no extra ID other than my old passport, sent recorded delivery to the Passport Office.
Lin's replaced her car, finding a newer model of her old Ford Estate on Gumtree - at only just over a £100 more than having the failed head gasket mended, once you added in the £182 she got for the old car's scrap value.
I've been making a veranda for the shed on our allotment. On Monday 31 October I finally claimed my State Pension having deferred receiving it for 5 years in order to build up a lump sum. This morning I loaded ten plastic sacks of grass cuttings and leaves from our garden, piled them in the back of Lin's car and had her drive me to our allotment so I could add their contents to our compost heap. Lin looked over the plot, commented on the lack of cultivation, including dried up corn, green potatoes, flowered broccoli, dried up onions that hadn't been fully harvested.
"It's a waste of time"
"Li-in!"
"Come on how can we work an allotment when we spend so much time away?"
"What a f***ing stupid thing to say!" I was momentarily enraged.
"Just go" I said "I'll walk home later with Oscar."
My anger is so ridiculous. It was because she might be right. It makes me even more determined to continue learning how to make our partially attended allotment work. I sawed flush the tops of the veranda uprights I'd dug in yesterday, fixed a piece of sycamore from my neighbour's plot between them, covered the whole with polythene; stapled the folded edges.
"It looks a bit Heath Robinson" said Lin seeing my photo.
...and how it was in July 2010 when a lot of us were just starting on our sheds, and the site had only been open a few weeks.

*** ***
Speeding through the Lake District
Over the weekend suited and tidied I rose early, cycled into New Street and took an early train north to Glasgow...
Changing at Lancaster on the way to Glasgow
...to enjoy the hospitality of my friend Miriam and see her at the Citizen's Theatre in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. I watched the show twice.
Lunch at Cail Bruich West

Then Sunday I had lunch with some of Miriam's Glasgow friends before cycling off to catch my train from Glasgow Central.
*** ***
...Add it all up and you got about $1.2 trillion, or more than a quarter-million dollars for every working Greek. Against $1.2 trillion in debts, a $145 billion bailout was clearly more of a gesture than a solution. (Dictionary: A UK billion = million million; A US billion = 1000 million, and a US trillion is a million million)...
A depressingly acute analysis of the Greek economic crisis by the financial journalist Michael Lewis came my way - an article published at the beginning of October in Vanity Fair.
The tsunami of cheap credit that rolled across the planet between 2002 and 2007...offered entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge. Entire countries were told, “The lights are out, you can do whatever you want to do and no one will ever know.” What they wanted to do with money in the dark varied. Americans wanted to own homes far larger than they could afford, and to allow the strong to exploit the weak. Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers, and to allow their alpha males to reveal a theretofore suppressed megalomania. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish. All these different societies were touched by the same event, but each responded to it in its own peculiar way. No response was as peculiar as the Greeks’, however: anyone who had spent even a few days talking to people in charge of the place could see that. But to see just how peculiar it was, you had to come to this monastery.
At the core of Lewis' article is an examination of the Vatopaidi Monastery - Βατοπαίδι μοναστήρι - scandal that broke in 2008.
Βατοπαίδι) μοναστήρι
Aleko just emailed us from Corfu, kindly sharing his latest Greek lesson:
Dear Simon and Lin. As you have no doubt heard Greece is in a no-return situation! What will happen|? Unfortunately our prime minister has lost his mind and is making desperate moves to recover. Something that is not at all possible. Even his own people have turned against him! Now he decides to have a referendum : do we want to be in the eurozone or not! Uproar from every member of parliament but he wants to go through with this. The 6th loan from the IMF is now in the air although it was confirmed to be given in mid November Elections. Yes, but what better can any other party achieve when the country is bankrupt? Young people are leaving Greece looking for jobs abroad, like in the 50's when they emigrated to Germany and Australia. Mind you, things are not much better in other countries but the are more stable than here...
3 November around 7.45pm hear via Twitter from Faisal Islam that the referendum is off; that it was a preamble to a threat of resignation by Papandreou, and a new attempt to get ND's Samaras to support a coalition government to press on with current austerity measures...
Papandreou Samaras will vote for new package...
E-mail to Aleko on 3 Nov:
The film has really speeded up. So now on Thursday evening  I’m reading (sitting in my mother’s home in the Highlands) a New York Times story….'After a tumultuous day of political gamesmanship, Prime Minister George Papandreou called off his plan to hold a referendum on Greece’s new loan deal with the European Union, withdrew his previous offers to resign and opened talks on a unity government with his conservative opponents... there was no need for a referendum now that the opposition New Democracy party had said it would back the debt deal...The question was never about the referendum but about whether or not we are prepared to approve the decisions on Oct. 26… (about) our position in the E.U.’ Sometimes I return to my sense that your PM is quite an astute political operator; even that the public breach with Venizelos - Βενιζέλου - was not unstudied serving to herd PASOK MPs into the right lobbies and drag Samaras and ND on board the austerity ship - one which this time Samaras, at the head of a coalition might skipper. It's been a breathtaking example of the old saw that a week - indeed 24 hours - is a long time in politics. What times we inhabit.
** ** **
Tuesday night was a meeting of the Friends of Black Patch Park at the Soho Foundry Pub. It was good to meet up again, though emails have kept me in touch while we're in Greece. I agreed to kick off a Facebook page for the Black Patch. We discussed our situation  amid the public money famine, what we could do to draw more attention to the Park - saved from being built on but without prospects of investment. We discuss Black Patch links - learned via the research of Ted Rudge - to Gypsies and Travellers, as the possible birthplace of Charlie Chaplin, the sighting of Queen Henty's ghost, the park's value to footballers, its connection to the old Soho Foundry, its proximity to the Birmingham Mainline Canal, its flora and fauna and the streams that join in its centre, its odd location on the Birmingham-Sandwell border, its lack of local users since it's more or less surrounded by derelict buildings and small factories.
"You're only hope is India!" proclaimed Harjinder gleefully "We're all going down. Only India can rescue us."
"Well yes and no, Harj"
The Friends of Black Patch Park 
*** ***
Special delivery this afternoon, in a cardboard tube - a sketch of me scything on the allotments by Jan Bowman - quid pro quo for passing my friend Dhiaa's folding bicycle to her in August. I'm delighted and flattered by her talented portrait...
...based on this clip:

From a blog entry this June: I attended a workshop on using a scythe 5 years ago - a day in April I took a train to Yeovil on Friday and cycled seven miles through Somerset countryside to the Fleur de Lis Pub in Stoke-sub-Hamdon, close to Tinker’s Bubble where, the next day, Simon Fairlie led a workshop, for six of us, on how to use a scythe. I'd wanted to use it in the churchyard of St.Mary's, Handsworth, with an uneducated notion that we might circumvent the council's ground maintenance routines and turn the place into a meadow, by scything - instead of strimming - at times of our choice, clearing cuttings to avoid their over enrichment, nurturing a richer diversity of flowers. But I'd bitten off more than I could chew - the scale of the churchyard and the momentum of the city's grounds maintenance bureaucracy. Had I persisted I'm sure we'd have prevailed. I didn't. The next time I used the scythe was to help my daughter, Amy, and son-in-law, Guy, to recover the lawn of their new home on the east of the city. So I haven't been using it much. I had to fiddle with assembly; reminding myself of the proper way to sharpen the blade - something to be done nearly every five minutes when scything - let alone observe the method of thinning the soft iron cutting edge of the blade with a hammer so that its vital sharpness can be maintained - peening it with the jig I bought at the same time as I bought the scythe and two blades - Luxor for lawns, Rasierschnitt for rougher work with a protective tine at the tip. Bringing that kit back on the train Sunday evening, the blade well wrapped, I was joshed about being the grim reaper. I can't quite recall how I carried it back from New Street on my bicycle, but I suspect Terry Pratchett would have approved the image of a scyther on a Brompton folding bicycle. Now I carry just the handle across my handlebars, leaving the blade in my basket - well-wrapped.

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