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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Bacon and eggs

The sun has got his hat on. He’s coming out to play. Rain rain go away come again another day. Bright dazzling reflections off wet surfaces everywhere, jocund, auguring Spring. Seedtime. Licensed though?
“How do you know” asked a woman at the seed-sharing meeting in the Farmers’ Co-op last Saturday “whether a tomato is a hybrid or from Corfu?”
“The one from Corfu will start to decay when it’s no longer fresh”
This answer produced murmuring chat across the floor; to some it’s hardly an issue. GM seeds grow tomatoes with no need for pesticide and the harvest takes far longer to rot giving plenty of time for distribution, longer retail and less waste.
“But you can grow tomatoes without pesticide”
“Ever tried?”
“And what happens to other insects?"
"So what?"
"What about not being able to keep seeds for the next crop. Having to buy them under licence? What about the difference in taste?”
“Ever tried to feed a family running a farm?”
I was on the phone – a gift call from Mark and Sally as I enjoyed another supper with them.
“Do you want to phone your mum?”
He dials the number which I forget now and then but Sally keeps a record. I talk first to Richard at Brin Croft another day with Emma, before taking the night coach back to Birmingham
“We went to see the windmills”

“Did you cross the river OK?” The swift burn that runs water of the moor beside the Garbole Road, to be forded on the rough track up to the turbines.
“No problem. We went to Coignafearn”
“Has Emma been there before?”
“Did she like it?”
“I guess. There were a lot of trees blown down in the winds we’ve been having.”
Pines spread for nutrients rather than burrow into impossible granite. Falling, they pull up a large flat saucer of raw sandy earth laced with torn roots.
“I bet the wind had the turbines whizzing”
“I guess so”
I give him some silence
“We found a pheasant that had been hit by a car. Lying by the road. I put it out of its misery. We bought it home. It’s hanging in grandma’s game larder.”
I spoke to my mum to say I’d booked a flight to the Highlands in mid-March.
“I love your letters” she said “I keep them by the bed. Take them out and read parts again. Oh yes. I finally got the phone of the girl on the Black Isle who’s got the terrier I gave her”
“Is she interested in her seeing Oscar”
“Very much so”
“Oscar’ll be up in August, for the Game Fair, Do you think her dog will be in season?”
“Fingers crossed”
“Chickens?” My mum's been planning to have chickens for a while.
“The coop is here already, just outside the window by the table where we eat, looking west”
There’s shelter there from a small ridge of higher ground above the river and they’ll be visible from the house.
“It’s super of Sharon to go along with this so long as there’s no cockerel”
“I want to get some of those black hens that lay those deep brown speckled eggs, but I’m not sure yet. I’m not going to be ambitious.”
Mark said “Do you want to phone Lin?”
This was a different matter as I needed to talk money with her.
“Mark and Paul” I said “think they may have found an engine for Summersong
At this point I handed the phone to Mark who to my delight took it and explained some of the details before handing back the phone.
“So how much?” she asked me. I told her what was being discussed “Not bad” she said.
I punched the air for Mark to see and smiled like a kid promised a treat
“It’s your money” said Lin “Indulge yourself. We’ll be able to go places we always wanted to visit.”
"We've still got to see if it'll fit the boat"
The extras are going to be the challenge – at least one new sea cock, a repositioned shaft, proper electrics, battery, flushing the fuel tank, new gear arrangements in the cockpit, hauling out, cleaning and anti-fouling and any other problems bound to arise in getting the devil out of the detail.
I’d phoned Dave with whom I’ve been out of touch for ages.
“Can you get me a tow down to Mandouki for some work on Summersong?”
“No problem. But no need for a tow. We can get her present engine to do that”
“Thanks Dave”
“No problem”
Over supper we discussed the times. We all want Greece to stay in the Eurozone, both for Greece and Europe
“If Greece goes can Italy, or Portugal or Spain be so far behind?”
I pondered what might happen if there was a return to the drachma.
“It won’t be the old drachma. De La Rue will print it new. Probably one drachma to one euro. That will take months. I doubt the contingencies are so advanced they’ve got stocks.”
“What happens to the euro’s in your pocket”
“They can be exchanged for drachs”
“At one to one?”
“For a very short while, if the point is to devalue the currency to boost exports, as in Argentina. It would quickly go to ½ a euro for one drach.”
“Yes. People with lots of euros will stuff them in the boot and head for the border where they’ll be stopped and searched by lots of new officials”
I recalled a tale told me long ago by Jack of a wealthy Jewish engineer getting late out of Nazi Germany, his family escaped already, the border officials searching his car inch by inch, determined that all he owned stayed in Germany. Having stripped him of his dignity and everything but his car and the clothes he wore, purloining rich takings for themselves, they let him drive through failing to notice that a set of tools needed for roadside repairs had been painstakingly forged out of pure platinum.
“So what happens before the official drachma starts circulating?”
“There’ll be scrip – local overprinted euros with the same value as the new drachma.”
“If it happens it’ll be sudden, to avoid the confusion, protest, dashing back and forth, that would go on if it were officially forecast”
“But if there were a leak, given how much of a run there’s already been on the banks?”
“Watch for a report of a scene involving someone famous stopped at a border”
Meanwhile I’m planning on bringing Euros into Greece to buy Summersong a new engine.
“What about all the speculation?”
“The vultures and jackals have been doing that to the Greek economy for the last five years. There’s little left to scam.”
There were only about five rich brown hens but with them was one light yellow chick and a lime duckling barely out of their eggs, and a small tabby kitten just able to walk, its large eyes open and puzzled, shaking out the coils of a crinkled tail. These three snuggled their way under one of the hens who’d made her way into a nest box in the coop – new cut deal, smelling of its joinery. I gazed at the birds. It reminded me of a painting I’d seen the day before by Natalie, Cinty’s mum, of a green Venetian door, a green bicycle and a brace of chickens looking on beside its wheels. I raised the lid of the nesting box. The brooding hen sat flattened in her nest. I put my hand on her back stroking the shallow hollow ούτως ειπείν της χάιδεψα στο βάση ραχοκοκαλιάς της. The counterpane of feathers beneath my hand seemed like the most generous thing in the world or as Dr F, might once have said “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.
For breakfast, having lit the fire with kindling chopped last night, I made myself a plate of hash browns (grate potato and small onion, squeeze out liquid in fist, press together and lay in pan with sizzling olive oil), mushroom (big one, sliced in three), bacon, eggs, and a thick slice of local tomato...
Χαρδιακή προσβολή στο πιάτο 
 – what a zealous medic once dubbed ‘a heart attack on a plate’. I shall cycle down to Ipsos to bail out Summersong’s cover again and do shopping in readiness for, at last, making a meal for guests instead of as it has been since I came, me the guest even at taverna’s where I’ve been forbidden to pay, my arm grabbed as I reach for my cash. Jim Potts, who did this the other day to me at Rouvas, observed “Greeks get bemused when we go shares, eating out in England.”
*** ***
An email from my stepfather’s friend Nick Wright – a response to my email telling him and other’s interested that yet another set of 34 masters of Jack’s films, which we had been pursuing round the UK most of last year, and momentarily thought recovered have gone back to earth for fear of copyright writs – not from me:
Sorry to hear you are having such a run-around with these idiots, and I hope that in time something positive may come out of all these exertions. As I believe I told you previously, the difficulty of putting sound to picture is a messy but entirely possible process which simply takes time and common sense. The difficulty for developing forward any new series with this material is that I don’t believe Jacks 'chat' through the material was ever recorded. I think with his natural ease he simply talked live to the films as they were broadcast, so the commentary never existed unless somewhere somebody recorded the programmes on a domestic level. The positive about that is that if you can discover such domestic recordings, sound quality will probably be OK for use today, whereas originally broadcast picture would look pretty jaded after all this time. (The stored picture original will retain its quality for probably 50 years) So the hunt really should be to try and find a domestic recording of transmitted programmes, and lift Jack’s voicetracks from that to create new integral programmes. The ha-ha  factor of that would be of course that as the voice track was never technically 'recorded' (only transmitted), then there can be no claim to copyright of those voicetracks from the broadcaster. To claim copyright you have to prove you were first to 'capture' the 'object' in some physical form (e.g. painting, writing, notation, recording etc.). So that might prove an interesting question for the legal people.
The original audio used for Jack’s films was very simple, little more that atmos (atmospheric sound) and occasional effects (a gate closing, car door shutting etc). Because of a pioneering arrangement between Jack and the Unions, he and Stanley Bréhaut were able to operate so flexibly and lightly (just the two of them) because they 'proved' they didn’t need a sound crew because they recorded no speech-based sound. Jack was very proud of having struck this deal because it enabled him to move quickly and easily and without a huge entourage, into the natural environment where he felt comfortable. And of course it kept the budget down…Good luck, and please continue to keep me in the loop. Hear from you sometime soon I hope
And part of a reply from another good friend and helper:
… Finally I am quite happy to test the water and upload one of my rebuilds onto my own Youtube site, as Youtube will only ask me to take it off if there are infringements. There are some recorded editions of How & other Southern material on Youtube from xxx's library of owned programmes which have stood the test of time…both D & myself believe that the rebuild episode with the Australian Dogs and Dorset Clock Museum which you already have…are not contained in the list of those 34 masters. We have been able to date both these Southern Broadcasts from teletext information contained in the recordings….My wife and I know of a retired BBC employee who we believe is still living in this area and who started his career working on film in Ealing Studios and was involved with film and sound transfers etc. It is unlikely that our paths will cross again until June or July, but I could put out feelers then as to whether he could help or know of someone else who might help with the SWFTA archive.

*** ***
Email from John M in Australia, coming to a conference in Rome, then off to cycle across Canada:
Dear Simon. We have a clear image of you on your bike or with stave in hand loping up the narrow roads of the Corfu mountains. I hope to get there one day in the winter as I have no sense of what it is like to be there at that time as we have only ever been an experienced the wonderful summer. How are the Greeks? We see images of riots on the street of Athens. It doesn't look so good and the financial woes continue on with bleak predictions. How did it get like this?
Your view of public value in our work is one I agree with (I’d emailed him about a paper I’d been invited to submit an abstract for to a conference in the US this September), because I have seen it explored at that individual, one-on-one relationship. I suspect the common garden variety view of public value they are touting is about community engagement level and structures and policies that reflect the recognition of what is valued in government. It is post hoc and structural, not immediate and personal. I will be interested in your views on this. I suggest you have a good look at the rhetoric on public value as it is being espoused so you can counter such claims.
We are now in count-down mode for the travels of 2012. 7 April to Rome for a week's conference, then on to Vancouver for a few days with the kids before we start the cycle journey, first up and down Vancouver Island as we wait for the right weather to cross the Rockies…Take care in Corfu. No going on any demos with the unions in Corfu Town, they look pretty serious! Keep in touch, John
Dear John. I am not doing much walking except when pushing my bicycle. I am mainly using the 21 gear roadster and except for the final slopes onto Democracy Street I can, in 1:1 get up just about anything Corfu has to offer. The roads are excellent for cycling here, except at night when you may encounter potholes easily spotted in daylight. I suspect these pose far greater risk to scooters and motorcycles, but fingers crossed…I find that after an hour’s uphill I’m still going pretty well but the lactic acid is building up in my knees and my groin’s chafing. That makes the final climb into the village harder. I’ve added toe clips which are great. The other thing here is splinters of acacia. They get stuck in bits of mud and dog or cat dirt. Before a ride I brush each tyre as clear as I can and go over every centimetre - occasionally finding and digging out an embedded thorn with the tip of my penknife…. I am checking out reading on public value as you suggest. I fully agree with Kurt Lewin that there’s nothing so practical as a good theory and I love ideas as much as anyone, but reading so much material on governance I struggle to believe that the researcher has accessed details or been closely engaged in the activities about which they theorise. The reality that I’ve experienced as participant as well as observers and theoriser seems absent. I have heard X speak disparagingly of studies solely based on case material…but I read the highly theoretical work of my great great grandfather Henry Maine who’s major works were Ancient Law and Village Communities in East and West…replete with details of events and opinions to colour his profound and precise theorising. Marx does the same as also Freud, and other great theorists. When I read so much material on governance I am struck by the gap between those who write cases for 'practitioners' which are weak on theory and those who write complex theoretical expositions based on empirical studies of course that fail to convey a sense of what is going on, what it looks and feels like to the people involved. (There are marked exceptions - especially Mark Moore's work on Public Value built on the experience of many many practitioners) Am I just being grumpy, uninformed and insufficiently familiar with the literature?.....So you will soon be in cobbled noisy Rome. Barring Amy’s son being born later than expected we will be in Corfu from early April. I go back to UK in a fortnight via Bari and Venice, a nice mix of ferry, train, bus and plane…I've tried to convey something of the feel of Greece at the moment; in meetings I sit in on in the village, tit-bits of news, in speculative gossip with friends. Deadline succeeds deadline with warnings becoming more dire. I read and hear of the greatest impact of the ‘megali krisi’ - μεγάλη κρίση (as it’s referred to) as being in Athens, not just the riots but also the abandoned rows of shops, new no-go areas, drug dealing, makeshift table-top sales, busy pawnbrokers, runs on banks, middle class people begging beside the poorer who’ve been at it longer, soup kitchens, mortgage foreclosures, emigration as has been traditional in earlier crises among those who can find work or university places outside Greece, politicians unable to risk going out in public without heavy security, car number plates being handed in as people abandon their cars unable to afford increased vehicle tax and rising fuel costs, more people on scooters, people turning to wood burning stoves for the same reason, more land being cleared for a return to farming olives, fruit, vegetables and stock, stories of a return to villages by some city people to be with family, to be more self-sufficient, to return to fishing, to run rural businesses. Here in the village it can feel remote from Athens’ urban dystopia (as also Thessaloniki and other Greek cities).  People will mention the ill-news, with a resigned shrug. In chat they will talk of the cuts in income and reduction in pensions and the burden of increased property taxes we’ve been paying with our electric bills this year, but the village feels as it normally does in the five winters we’ve spent here - wet, cold, windy with people hibernating and waiting for occasional sunny days to hang out their washing and looking forward to Easter. Of course we have church services and lovely music and Carnival is on 26 February with me recruited to the carnival planning volunteers (sweeping, painting and moving chairs and tables)...Supermart shelves on the island empty very fast when there’s a strike or expectation of one, so there would be measures to prevent hoarding. All this suggests stronger protests, disorder and possible repression tho’ it’s very unlikely the police will be so obedient to a discredited government or that anyone in the army would risk getting anywhere near a coup. The memory of the Junta is still near and shaming to Greece…So far except for empathy we are not affected.
Capital of happiness
We have no wish to even contemplate selling our home here, tho’ that would be next to impossible if we hoped to get back what we paid, let alone profit. Funny that Lin and I have never experienced negative equity while we had mortgages and now we own a house outright which must now be a third or half what we paid for it, it causes us no worry. Our capital’s tied up in our happiness at living here part of the year. I might be talking differently in a year’s time but then there’s a strong sense that Greece is a bellwether, capitalism’s coal-mine canary. So the grass isn’t much greener anywhere else within three hours flight!
You ask 'how did it get like this?'. Explanation risks sounding like excuse. Greece is an extreme victim of the credit-pushers, corrupt politicians the portal for their access to the people who, over the last 15-20 years, went mad with plastic in a country that produces mainly tourism, now in weak competition with many other tourist destinations. On a Greek film script I saw two days ago one character says “We missed out on an industrial revolution. We dug quarries and built a colony of factories on sheep-pens.”  The same leadership used the new credit to compete in buying voters instead of investing it in advanced tourist infrastructure, hi-tech industrialisation, improvements in the built environment of cities, green spaces and traffic management that cities in other parts of the world have carried out to attract white collar professionals. They failed to make higher educational institutions competitive with the universities to which bright Greeks head in droves in US, Australia and northern Europe. (But see this illustrated paean by Cretan Dimitris Petrakis posted recently on Facebook railing against lies and myths about Greece). Why did wiser voices not prevail as this great failure of vision occurred? That’s because the arrogant, male-dominated, queue-jumping, bribe-ridden, clientelist, patronage culture of Greece, especially Athens, was never flushed from its corridors. (see my friend Richard Pine's latest op-ed Letter from Corfu for the Irish Times) The legacy of Ottoman occupation, like colonialism in Africa, is forever cited as explanation and excuse for a dependency in Greece that was continued by her role as post-war pawn of Britain and later America. A weakened US and now a weakened Europe makes that dependency unfruitful, and now new ideas and capital are beginning, as in Africa, to arrive from China; a new global ball-game…Even now Greece’s political leaders, aware of a General Election planned in April, might be said to be playing on fears in the rest of Europe of what will happen if the country descends into some sort of Argentinian chaos. I’m reminded of the old maxim about 'bacon and eggs’ ‘pigs and chickens'. Greece’s highly privileged politicians (in terms of income, expenses and other benefits) are the chickens with their eyes on the ballot box while proclaiming their enthusiasm for Greece to change through greater and more prolonged austerity. The ordinary people are the pigs who are, when it comes to bacon and eggs, committed in a rather more serious way. Love to all, Simon
**** ****
There is an intriguing museum in Ano Korakiana, in the plateia, a slight widening of the road rather than a proper square. There are signs guiding people to it. Pavla was trying to see it a couple of years ago when we met as she drove by me as I strolled up Democracy Street. 
There are plaques and the word Museum - ΜΟΥΣΕΊΟ - in large metal letters on the front of the building, which celebrates a self-taught village sculptor who lived at the start of the last century, and created works that were a mix of Greek and Hindu style - what a friend back in England called ‘a bit naughty’.
She knew this only because one of Aristidis Metallinos’ statues is displayed on a small pedestal halfway up the front wall of the museum. No-one I know, or have heard about, has ever seen the inside of the Metallinos Museum and, though inhabited, it is never open. No neighbour, despite kind efforts, has managed to enable me to make a visit. I would like to but perhaps I'd be disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting analysis of how it came to this.
    I shall study!

    Next time we go 50:50.


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Simon Baddeley