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Friday, 15 June 2012

Agiotfest 2012

It's still a good nine weeks away, but the first place we shall go when we get to Corfu is home - to unpack, watch the dawn and have a rest - given that we'll get into Kapodistria before four in the morning. In the early evening when it's still light we'll go to Agiotfest - a celebration held each summer in the village of Agios Ioannis in the centre of the island - 15 minutes drive from the city, about twenty from Ano Korakiana. As our friend Paul McGovern, the driving force behind Agiotfest, says: "When many people's domestic finances are at low ebb the Agiotfest and events of its type are just what the doctor ordered to step out of the gloom. So please turn out in your hundreds to enjoy this fabulous occasion where dancing is almost compulsory"
The Steve Gibbons Band which we know from our home town Birmingham is the headline act. Steve was heading the Dylan Project in the very successful first Agiotfest in 2009. This was the clip I made while we were enjoying that good evening of music, dancing, food and drink at Ag.Ioannis...
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And today and tomorrow on the eve of the Hellenic General Election in the city of Corfu, events that include my favourite bloggers, Jim Potts and Chris Holmes....

Corfu, Summer Festival 2012, Music at the Anglican Church, 15-16 June
Two great concerts in the evenings (ticket prices include food and a glass of wine):
Friday 15 June, 1900-2300, Jazz and Pop Evening (with Stefania Kaloudis)
Saturday 16 June, 1900-2300, Chamber Music Evening (with Kostas Zervopoulos)
Also, free events on Saturday morning (11am-2.30pm), Open Air Buskers, during the Summer Fair
Running Order:
11:00 - Fair opens
11:30 - 12:45 : Rob Sherratt and Pavla Smetanova and Pavla's son (Piano / Sax / Flute)
13:00 - 13:20 : Chris Holmes (Guitar and Vocals)
13:45 - 14:15 : Jim Potts (Guitar and Vocals) and Raul Scacchi (Guitar): 'Backporch Blues'
...and here's a piece encouraging people to take holidays in Corfu and Paxos...
...And there is another, neighbourly reason to choose Greece, for if my experience is anything to go by, there is a human story being enacted there about Europe itself that is touching the hearts of regular visitors. Hundreds of thousands of British tourists come to Corfu every year. In some resorts I visited, up to 70% of holidaymakers are from the UK and, of those, two-thirds have been before. They have made friends here...Amid the global uncertainties, there is a feeling among them not just of sympathy but of “there, but for the grace of God, go we”.
Summersong at Agni, Corfu
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I managed a few hours on the allotment on Thursday afternoon, planting some more runner beans, spreading more slug pellets, topping seeding weeds, watering - as it turned out unnecessarily - my seed beds. I driving the Handsworth Helping Hands transit van to the park compound, after which I shall pack for a flight to the Highlands to stay a few days with my mother, sister and niece at Inverarnie - and to walk.
Winding up the HHH meeting - John, Mike, Lin, Leslie, Denise and Oscar
Our little group got a lot of work done last night, finishing well before 9pm, It was pouring rain so I gave Denise a lift home. I typed notes as we met and will turn them into minutes while travelling.
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Easy flight from Birmingham. Long catch-up chat with my mum - things impossible by phone, including Skype. I had time for a walk with dog Lulu in the long evening; out of the house, over grid, over the esker, up the forestry track to the end of Inverarnie wood....
...back by footpaths to Brin Croft. Strathnairn is carved by glaciers, notably Brin Rock in the background behind my right hand. Even I, a geological illiterate, can manage rough readings of how this place was formed 20,000 years ago. The valley floor is strewn with isolated boulders - erratics carried sometimes hundreds of miles in the ice and dumped as it melted - and eskers, built up by the meltwaters from the last ice sheet - winding mounds of turfed gravel, rather like railway embankments - enduring forms upon which humans apply their temporary marquetry.
In this wood, hardly a mile long, a half wide, I can pretend I'm getting lost, savouring the mildest apprehension; an echo of childhood stories where people, particularly children, are lost in woods, sometimes led there deliberately on the chance or in the hope they'd been eaten by wolves or bears. These tales scared me as intended and as I wanted. The idea of being lost was frightening and exciting - learnted before I became worried by the idea of being lost in a city or at sea. It included encounters in forests - with dangerous animals, spirits, people. The prospect of Pan - who brings terror in daylight. Since childhood the idea of being geographically lost is near inconceivable - almost a shame. In these woods that mix newer deciduous with serried forestry evergreens there are paths, the remains of paths, marshy clearings that I come at from different directions, small dribbling streams edged by cushiony sphagnum, wider lanes marked by the imprinted tread of big tyres on forestry vehicles and the shattered stems of smaller trees, sudden stretches of rusting wire fence, ridged gullies difficult to traverse, and recent smartly-made fences and gates with signage near the metalled road through the village. This is a wood I can enter at one end, proceed in one what I think is a direct line to its other end, to find myself leaving it at the end I entered. Perhaps I'll stumble upon the remains of some half-hidden village like those in the Grunewald by Lake Krumme west of Berlin. Perhaps I'll have a chance to walk my grandson Oliver through here; see if we can find a ginger-bread house.
The house in the woods
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Vasso Simu and Panagiotis Vovos - another of the regular stories from Greece of city people returning to the village...
...both 31. She had been an adviser in an insurance company, he had been a computer programmer. Unemployed and with no future in the city, three months ago they moved back to his mother's village on the island of Evia, Εύβοια, two hours' drive from Athens. "We wanted a new life in the countryside,'' Simu says. ''We have our own garden: tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, beans, corn. We will make our own olive grove.'' She works in a restaurant to earn them cash but they hope eventually to make a real living out of selling what they grow...Meanwhile, they love the traditional life. ''Every day we are swimming in the sea,'' she says with satisfaction. ''We get up early and collect the eggs. Right now Panagiotis is filling the ground with water and then he will fix the house of the chickens. I make marmalade and all the food for us to eat. We are very happy.''
"We are very happy"
I read these stories with intense interest and a mix of hope and scepticism, Having an inkling of how hard it is for me to grow just my own vegetables, I can guess what a test it will be, what perseverance and sheer guts will be needed, to grow enough vegetables to sell them as well. The earth can be a pig...Zola’s Earth demolished the rural idyll, mocked ‘back to the land’. John Berger, a century later, called it Pig Earth; that working the land is no refiner of character...and the 'traditional' life can be abusive, male-dominated, small-minded, gossipy, superstitious, stiflingly constrained. Tradition's etymology = delivery, surrender, handing down, delivery of doctrine...No, it was the journalist Aspasia Koulira who used this phrase to describe the opinion of Vasso and Panagiotis. What would be most desirable would be for people to make a new kind of village; a community which is sustainable but wisely selective about its 'doctrines'.

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