Friday, 10 August 2012

Out of Town

'Here, long after I'd left home, is my stepfather on set, relaxed in the 'shed' he invented for the programme, a yoke of studio lights reflected in his glasses...
Jack Hargreaves ~ Out of Town 
...Growing up with Jack I spent a lot of the time we weren't out of doors, in a shed - watching him, sometimes helping him, always listening. It was a comfortable space suffused with the aroma of Gallaghers Honeydew and a bench rather than a desk next to tool racks and an accumulating plethora of useful odds and ends that would have cluttered a studio.'
I've just prepared this paragraph as a comment on a Southern Television studio photo in family files taken, I suspect, in 1980 when Jack must have been touching 70, about to leave the company, knowing it was almost certain to lose its franchise in the latest round of ITV bidding. I'm working with Ian Gilcrist at Delta who are preparing some images and texts to go with their release of 34 original Out of Town broadcasts.
These are as far as we know the only complete episodes of Jack's Out of Town programme that survive. The set that Charles Webster of Delta, who I've been working with over the last three years, plans to release later in the year. His 'box' will include an account from me of the search for this material and one from Simon Winter of Kaleidoscope of the extraordinary mix of luck and wisdom that unearthed them, with a short accompanying website, in which my stepfather's portrait will feature.
1951 ~ Gallagher's Golden Honeydew
I probably know as well as anyone how accurately Out of Town transferred my childhood to the tele’. In that posed studio photo he sits at a desk with the Falcon pipe he’d draw on through count-down - a concession to indoor smoking that even as early as 1980 had to be negotiated. He’d rest the pipe gently on the desk as he went on air, relighting it with the credits.  There was in the end surprisingly little difference between Jack’s carefully devised set and the shed next to our house; little difference between Jack Hargreaves as a natural on TV and Jack in a real shed being a dad to die for. He chatted as he worked. I was endlessly entertained, understanding, years later, why he sub-titled his book - Out of Town - ‘a life relived on television’. I'm sure that was because of, rather than despite, the artifice. Never am I so reminded of the fancy that we invent our lives, or at least our biographies.
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I don't wish recession on anyone but this is nectar:
ATHENS, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Greece's dire economic plight has forced thousands of businesses to close, thrown one in five out of work and eroded the living standards of millions. But for bicycle-maker Giorgos Vogiatzis, it's not all bad news. The crisis has put cash-strapped Greeks on their bikes - once snubbed as a sign of poverty or just plain risky - and Greek manufacturers are shifting into fast gear. The high cost of road tax, fuel and repairs is forcing Greeks to ditch their cars in huge numbers. According to the government's statistics office, the number of cars on Greek roads declined by more than 40 percent in each of the last two years. Meanwhile, more than 200,000 bikes were sold in 2011, up about a quarter from the previous year. Shops selling bicycles, and equipment ranging from helmets to knee pads, are spreading fast across the capital, popping up even between souvenir shops on the cobbled pedestrian streets of the touristy Plaka district. "They're sprouting up like mushrooms," said Vogiatzis, who designs and builds tailor-made bicycles in his workshop on the Aegean island of Rhodes....

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To my delight the chickens have arrived. Four healthy looking two year old hens. Two Suffolk Lights and two Rhode Island Reds. They were delivered to their run and coop on one side of Brin Croft at 7.45 Wednesday morning...

...kept in there for 24 hours. Friday afternoon three are out on the grass basking in  unaccustomed sun, wings outstretched, and Blanche seems to be broody in the laying box. "I doubt we'll have any eggs for a while. They need to settle in" said my mother, who sees them first on my computer...
...and names them, Blanche, Edith, Rhoda and Gladys - Edith the Suffolk with black speckles on her cape, and Rhoda, the Rhode Island with darker feathers on her back. I bought back a large bag of laying pellets and a water feeder from Harbros on Harbour Road in Inverness.The doctor and nurses have been dropping in, courtesy of the NHS to check on Mum who's not feeling so good. The arrival of hens and relatives cheering her up a little. Her grandson, my sister Bay's son, Antony, has taken a house in Tomatin for a week and is there with that side of the family. I've been ferrying Bay over the 14 miles to Inverarnie to check on our mum and confer with Sharon, her wonderful carer, and calm collected Doctor Sweeney who's mother's also in her 90s. Bay got our mother to a window to have a first gaze at her new chckens...
...and  my great niece came round with her mum keen to try feeding them...
Sydney with her grandma and the chickens
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I've been taking walks in jocund grazings playground for hundreds of small butterflies - Scotch Argus - myriad small insects, bees large and small, tiny moths fluttering between storks amid the rich greenery along the silvery Farnack...
The Farnack
...heading above this pleasant Highland bocage, on above the forestry line to scan the Strath in all its beauty - a panorama on these clear days to Ben Wyvis in Easter Ross beyond the Moray Firth winding away to Cromarty until it disappears beyond my middle ground, eastern slopes of serried pine, leading south to my point of reference - Brin Rock.



Time travel, like riding a bicycle the first time or skipping, is a mix of chance and craft. My daily biography runs to random slides amid the sounds of the moment; no track for smell. Dipping my nose into a flower, a patch of greenest sphagnum, rotting leaves, an errant pine branch, a handful of long wet grass to hold a living fish going back where it came, broken earth; I flick through a worm hole - momentarily effulgent with joy; sometimes its opposite stench, equally evocative. Possession is immeasurably brief, far outside conscious attention, an elusive sense animating the images and sounds, even the tastes, of lost times - του χαμένου χρόνου. How we mock noses, the part that resists all but teasing poetry. Yet the terriers, all dogs, share an environment of smells and taste. With their wet noses and little lolling tongues they survey and map the walks we take.

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À la recherche ... in Ano Korakiana
A swimming expedition of Korakianers to Dassia - before the they built the big road along the shore

"Η μυρωδιά της τηγανητής μελιτζάνας και πιπεριάς καθώς και η φρέσκια σάλτσα ντομάτας μου θυμίζουν έντονα τα καλοκαιρινά μας μπάνια όταν ήμασταν παιδιά! Από τα χαράματα με ξύπναγαν οι μυρωδιές που προανέφερα. Ήταν η μέρα που θα οδεύαμε προς Δασιά μεριά. Αρκετή η απόσταση όταν την κάνεις πεζή. Όσοι είχαν γαϊδουράκι ήταν τυχεροί. Εμείς δεν είχαμε! Ξεκίναγε η συντροφιά με τα φαγώσιμα κρεμασμένα στα ''σκαρβέκια ''του γαϊδάρου...
The smell of fried aubergines and peppers as well as the smell of fresh tomato sauce reminds me intensely of our summer bathing when we were children. These smells awoke us from daybreak. It was the day we were going to travel to the seashore at Dasia - a considerable distance on foot. Those who had a donkey were lucky. We didn't. Our group set off with the picnic food hanging from the wooden parts - σκαρβέκια - of the Jenny's saddle..."
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I thought this interesting - from John and Alistair cycling across Canada right now. Looking at what makes a community work -
John and Alistair in Tatamagouche
Sustainability and the Entrepreneurial Spirit: It is the most obvious thing that is missing in communities that are stagnant or in decline. In these places no one is able to refer to any one individual or a group of passionate and committed citizens who are taking action....Business entrepreneurs are the cornerstone of successful small communities. It may not take many, just a handful working on their own business. Together they recognise the efforts of others who also take this risk and they form an important cohort in the community around which others will follow to build a sense of place...
...and another cycle odyssey with a purpose - described in The Carbon Cycle. In 2006 Kate Rawles cycled 4500 miles from Texas to Alaska, following the spine of the Rocky Mountains conversing with people she met about climate change – from truck drivers to the Mayor of Albuquerque – to find out what they knew about it, whether they cared, and if they did, what they thought they could do. I've bought the book...and extract from Kate's blog. I like the fine grain, the small things, the ubiquity of unique individuals, talents I'll never encounter, the amount I miss in the wider world:
25th june '06...wonderful couple of days. great evening at neighbours' yesterday. when we arrived at john and anne's, just us and them. i was imagining a sit-down formal dinner. then another couple arrived, then a car-load, then another. cars kept arriving. soon the house was full of three generations, wandering inside and out, drinking beers, cokes and margheritas. i spoke with a geologist specialising in hazardous waste retraining as a nurse specialising in anaesthesia. (an anaesthetist with a geological time-frame, what a thought! let me put you to sleep for a hundred thousand years....).   his view on global warming was a) climates have always been in flux and this is just another flux and b) in any case talking about global warming isn't a good way to get people to act differently. it's too big and distant. focussing on the geo-political situation and the desirability of energy independance would be much more effective. i spoke with a solar astrophysicist who'd been studying the sun's output since 1970. we can't blame the sun's output for global warming anymore, he said. it's now certain that the output has been constant for the last 30 odd years. and yes, i certainly believe global warming is happening. i spoke with anne who showed me her little black and white cat panda's two kittens and told me a bear had eaten all their chickens bar one last night - and had a go at the hummingbird feeder. (bears? already? goodness!). best of all i spoke with heidi. small and slender, skin tight jeans, beautiful boots, pink and white shirt and white cowboy hat over a long pale plait, large blue eyes with a calm, grounded sort of look. heidi has a very large ranch in utah. in the summer she rides the ranch checking on cattle and fences, sleeping out for five or six nights at a time and then coming back for an occasional bath before setting out again. a real cowgirl (cowperson?!) - and a grandma! what an inspiration. (being a cowgirl is a long-standing fantasy of mine, tho its never sat entirely easily with being a vegetarian). we talked about arabs versus quarter horses (she uses quarter horses), how travelling in an rv cuts you off from so much of what you are travelling through, and how useful dogs are. "they make for lazy cowboys but take the pressure off the horses. they're about 5% useful: most of the time the cattle are chasing the dogs rather than the other way around." tom and rosalind told me later how heidi on form was an extraordinary dancer, known, amongst other things, for tap-dancing on tables and throwing truly wild parties which people would cross states to get to. and she invited me to come and visit! oh my. somehow i must find a way to make that happen.
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I've only just read Richard Pine's latest Letter from Greece in the Irish Times of 3 August 'Living with bribery and tax evasion as normal as the azure sky'...
I plead guilty. Last month I colluded in tax evasion and paid a bribe. I was buying stationery costing €105. The shopkeeper asked if I wanted a receipt. No thanks. “Then that will be €90 – cash, of course.” Of course. I saved €15 and he avoided paying VAT. Collusion. Everyone does it...Meanwhile, the coalition government in place since late June appears to be doing nothing except mouthing empty rhetoric about the need for reform and renegotiation of the bailout. There are reportedly 110 bailout conditions on which no progress has been made, thus imperilling payment of the next tranche of the loan. Government prevarication has registered with the voters: a recent opinion poll indicated that 50 per cent of voters are dissatisfied with the inaction of people who have the power – but not the motivation – to effect change. This is the same percentage that voted for the anti-austerity, anti-bailout parties on June 17th. A house divided, indeed. A visitor, looking at an aquamarine sky, asked: “Where else would you see a sky like that?” To which the answer is: Portugal, Spain, Italy – all the “bad boys” of southern Europe. It isn’t simply a matter of doing business in these countries in a quite different way to those of the north, but a cultural difference. A country in which clingfilm is called “diaphanous membrane”, and where boys are still named Aristotle, Hercules and Perikles, and girls Aphrodite, Urania (sky) and Agape (love), isn’t quite the same as one in which children are called Nigel and Ingrid, and where clingfilm is, well, clingfilm.
The other evening I asked my nephew, who's senior enough in knowledge of economics and finance, to have an opinion I value, about Greece
"You know how I feel. What of the future?"
"Greece will leave - will have to leave the Euro" he said very quietly; a little reluctantly.
"And Spain, and Italy and Portugal and...?" I asked amid a crowd of chatting relatives in my mother's sitting room. He looked at me eyebrows raised knowing I was seeking reassurance.
"Well?"
"They'll pull through"
Olympic debt race - Sophia Mamalinga 2 Aug'12

"What's the difference?" He shrugged and made a small spread of his arms. It was like pulling small teeth.
"Is it corruption?"
"Hm"
"Why Greece? Why not the others? You know how bad things are in Athens" I ran through my present list of harm and spreading misery.
"There's no capital left" He paused and looked away then back at me "Nothing there" Another pause "A dreadful mess."
He wanted to talk and think about something else. I didn't pursue, just felt a small ache in the pit of my stomach. (Telegraph 7 Aug'12: Greek exit from euro is 'manageable’ says Jean-Claude Juncker)
The family came to say 'Goodbye"

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