Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Lunch in Ano Perithia

Spring at Ano Perithia

Monday was damp; the house so quiet. Some have taken advantage of the wet, after ten sunny days, to set bonfires, their smoke mixing with the mist making the chill evening air smell like autumn. There was enough sun to dry this morning’s washing. I miss the baby clothes that have hung on our line these last nine days – small smocks and socks. In the morning I don’t, any more, have to go downstairs by the outside steps so that my creaking descent of wooden stairs above the guest bedroom wakes Oliver.

We saw them away round Sunday noon, after they'd reached the end of a long slow queue through airport security.
Was it Friday we had a picnic in the British Cemetery?
Gherkins, marmite and cheese sandwiches in the British Cemetery
The bell in the ivy above the gate rings as we enter. George Psialas, a little more stooped came out to greet us.  Could we picnic?
“Of course, of course” he’d said, talking of the storm that, last month, had broken off branches, damaged shrubs and gouged ditches beside some of the cemetery’s grassy paths, washing away bulbs. He picked Lin a bouquet of red and blue to which he added a slightly incongruous twig of palm attached to a clump of butter coloured seeds. At Lin’s suggestion I placed them in a clay pot on Norman Sheriff’s grave; ‘Stormin’ Norman, who’d bought Summer Song in Spain in the early ‘80s and for a retirement - from the railways - adventured with his wife Pauline along Mediterranean coasts to Turkey and back to Corfu.
We searched, fruitlessly, for the tortoises I’d seen on my last visit, with mum when she came to Corfu in 2010. It was October. The grass had been short after summer. Now this sanctuary is profuse with greenery; abundant, as is all Corfu and Greece, with spring flowers and blossom.
Looking for tortoises
On Saturday – “our last day” – we guided Guy as he drove us over the mountains at Trompetta, down to the sea at Roda and back into the foothills of Pantocrator via Loutses to Old Perithia to have lunch at Foros (Ψησταριά Φορος, Αηω Περίθια), where we were served by Thomas Siriotis who remembered previous visits and asked after Richard Pine. I told him about Richard being back from hospital in Dublin.
“His liver, yes”
“He must not drink any more wine” I said “How can you do that?”
“I haven’t drunk for ten years” he said “Ouzo! It can make you feel sick but you can’t be sick. You want to die.”
Lunch with Oliver, Guy and Amy at Foros
I had thought that to eat food without wine, especially in Greece, would be an imposition. Perhaps not so. As we studied Thomas' menu he sketched us on a blank visiting card, including Oliver, entranced by a furry Alsatian puppy that came out to meet us, seeking scraps from our table.
“Her name?”
“Leda”
“So her father is Zeus?"
“Of course”
He didn’t say anything about the swan or not so's I could follow. We sat in and out of shade under a vine canopy.

I had liver, hardly shown the grill, as I preferred. Lin’s was better done. We shared liver, souvlaki, roast cheese, chicken pie, giro, plates of slim well browned chips, salads with feta and crispy bread with small jugs of red and white wine, water and - on the house - to finish, moist brown walnut cake.
Leda and Oliver
“Thanks for bringing us here” said Guy who paid the bill “We’d never have found this on our own”.
I noticed that the place we’re used to calling Old Perithia seems now to be referred to by people working there as Ano (upper) Perithia. Is it to get away from the connotations of ‘old, palia’? That it is not really a collection of semi-deserted ruins but something becoming a village again? As we left Thomas handed us a cloth wrapping ten fresh eggs from chickens he keeps at his home in Loutses
*** ***
A text from our son. Next day Richard phoned
“We’re in Tiananmen Square”
“Is it vast?”
“the pollution’s so bad you can hardly see the edges"
**** ****
An email from Mike Tye re jobs lined up for Handsworth Helping Hands
Hello Simon. These are the gardens that have been requested for action (pics attached). I would like to organise the worker/s to do these. What is our maximum spend on each project I am wondering? Daffs planted on Embankment (not by scouts) but by 4 of us last Sunday. Photos to follow. All the best,  Michael
We were relieved, especially as our Ward Officer is asking about how HHH have been spending the grant we won last year. Lin replied: 
Hi Mike. Really delighted that things are happening while we’re away! As far as ‘maximum spend’ is concerned, we think that £150 would be OK for a start. That would allow, for example, for 12 'man hours' work at £10 per hour plus £30 for any materials needed, or 10 man hours work plus £50 for materials, or 15 man hours work and no materials, etc. In exceptional individual circumstances, the committee might agree to more. You also have to take into consideration:
1. Does the client qualify for help according to criteria we have set?
2. Do they qualify for full funding?
3. Can they afford to pay part of or all of the costs? If so, how much?
4. Who will be doing the work?
5. If members of our group are doing the work, should they be paid, and if so, how much?
6. If we employ someone else to do the work, how much per hour should they be paid?
7. Do people doing the work need a Disclosure & Barring (previously CRB) check before they can start work?
8. Are power tools necessary, and if so, are workers qualified to work with them?
9 How do we monitor the number of hours worked?
I have already devised a recording sheet for jobs, which I’ll bring to the next meeting after we get back, for discussion by the group.
We think that our free gardening activities should be limited to:
1. Clearance and rubbish removal
2. Trimming and pruning
3. Mowing
4. General tidying
5. Repairs to gates, fences, paths, etc.
6. Limited planting.
If clients are prepared to pay, then activities could be extended to include more extensive planting, path laying, turfing, etc.
As this is the first project of this kind, you’ll have to make judgements about what is right this time.
We look forward to hearing how this goes. Please take photos before, during and after, for grant evidence and for our Facebook page.
Good luck and best wishes, Linda, Hon.Treas. Handsworth Helping Hands
 *** ***
From Jan:
Simon. I think The Price of Inequality by Joseph E Stiglitz is worth a read. He is a Nobel prizewinning economist and former chief economist at the World Bank (hardly a crazed left wing radical!). Some quotes:
“those at the top have learned how to suck out money  from the rest in ways the rest are hardly aware “
“politics has been high jacked by a financial elite feathering their own nest”
“We are at the mercy of cartels who are lobbying politicians hard and using monopoly power to boost profits”
“Incomes have fallen and inequality has increased as a direct result of deregulation and privatisation “ ( i.e. no trickle-down effect but the reverse )
“Inequality undermines productivity and retards growth”
He can evidence these conclusions but I doubt if this will make any difference to government policy or that they are even bothered to read it. However it does  provide evidence for  those who wish to pursue a different moral vision based on hard facts. Is there a role for Localism in this?
Another quote (from Petra Reski The Honoured Society) about the Calabrian Mafia in Italy. They have a turn over of £37.8 billion per annum. That buys a lot of political clout and power. The mafia has become an integral part of Italian society:
“The foundation of all mafia power remains their rootedness in social consensus”
I am mindful of our conversation about “intelligent” criminals filling the  vacuum left by the rolling back of the public sector and the new social consensus they could create. Bad news for local democracy. Best Jan
Dear J. Thanks for these. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your tutoring on the current crisis. I think that I too have been wont to go along with - if not entirely drawn into - the Stockholm syndrome, when it comes to central-local relations. Inlogov has always worked with different political parties, and been as successful over the years during Tory and Labour rule. It has meant that we have eschewed political rhetoric and not allowed ourselves to be slotted into any particular political position. It’s been part of how we work and so part of my own approach (having worked well and ‘happily’ with councils of all shades). I have kept my personal opinions to myself but for the occasional aside. In that sense I've gone along with the cherished principle of officer neutrality as enshrined and subsequently cherished in the 1856 Northcote-Trevelyan Report (what a brilliant 26 page essay on the importance of detaching politics from the working of the civil service that is. It still reads well today!). The trouble, as you have pointed out, is that it necessarily keeps you inside the box of a particular political-management relationship. What you’re telling me is that you - now removed from honourable and competent service in that ‘box’ - are allowing yourself to see things in a political way; suggesting that things are now happening in the world that can mean allegiance to the cherished principle and practice of political neutrality becomes a form of collusion and collaboration with a type of politics that is moving outside the traditional framework of 'normal' political-management practice. I'm especially struck by this paragraph of yours:
There is a danger that the ‘overlap’ maybe about to be overtaken by an ever growing ‘gap’ which needs to be managed in a different way to the ‘overlap’, hence my phrase ‘maintaining the bridge’. In this context, as political ambitions are floundering and managerial manoeuvrability diminishing, the ethical dimensions may be tested to breaking point and beyond. Governance may no longer be able to patrol the boundaries of what is acceptable or not, or the boundaries themselves may shift either deliberately or imperceptibly. 
I have, in the past, addressed a serious break between political steer and managerial action (including ethics) as a situation where an officer may have to consider resigning - having that chat with the family about school fees and mortgage and so on. You are looking at this not as just an officer matter (what an officer may have to do when they can no longer work with a particular leader or political group) but as a situation in which a member and an officer (Leader-CEO) or a political and managerial group come to the view that to serve their community’s interests they may - together - have to maintain a political-management relationship that sees their council in some way or another withdrawing from the current central-local ‘contract’, lest they be in breach of their contract with their locality and its inhabitants.
In order to support such a breach (one almost impossible to sustain given the imbalance of power between centre and locality) there's a need to become familiarised with critiques like that of Stiglitz. Both managers and politicians need to ‘read’ (and have the ‘carrying capacity to do that ‘reading’) the novelty of the situation and form their actions - decisions and rhetoric - in the light of new global analyses of what's happening in  the world - ‘to pursue a different moral vision based on hard facts’. At the moment these 'hard facts' are not seen as facts. We are still assuming our ship is in a storm - a nasty one - rather than that it might be foundering. Best S
*** ***
“Now they’ve gone” said Lin “we can watch a film in the evening”
It was Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves. Even Lin was tearful by the end. It was about ‘goodness’ in its uncelebrated form. Colliding irreconcilables run through the film – faith, love and judgement; the other, secular, atheist, diagnostic, but also love. I was wondering, as I hung the washing this morning, how providential it is, if it is, that I, who strive mostly unsuccessfully to bow to the great mysteries of science and art, yet brought up in faith, liturgy (a softer one than Bess' Wee Free), its language and music, can have regular conversations, as does Bess, with God. She of course is my opposite – being a believer, humble, sweet and good; hence slandered by the religious as damned to hell, and labelled by the secular as deranged. The most fascinating characters in the film are those that stray across the narratives – the nurse, best friend, also Bess' sister-in-law, who prays for a miracle; the piously righteous mother who sides with the church's banishment against her daughter but at last reveals compassion and grief; the priest who tries to break the Calvinist rules; the doctor who, momentarily, retracts his inquest evidence...
“Instead of writing ‘neurotic’, or ‘psychotic’ I might just – erm - use a word like ‘good’”
Mystery and magic are all about - here, now, forever - but necessarily excluded from the small spectrum of reality available to human senses, the prison of gravity and the composition of gases that since my heart began to beat feeds oxygen into my blood. The creative strength to chip one’s way out of that ovule of common sense includes a fervent respect for the job it does in shielding me from the feral, from Bedlam. It's a fearful thing to meet the living God was the old way of putting it. The new way? I will show you fear in a handful of dust. There’s talent and craft and spirit to seeing the world that’s undoubtedly there.
*** ***
We've been collecting wood from the beach at Dassia where, along with the usual driftwood, coppiced Oleander left a harvest of long round logs, easily chopped and sawn, to store in four large builders' bags to dry in the apothiki, now cleared of rubble, with new concreted floor and window. We’ve tidied and sorted there; removing a miscellany of odds and ends for which we can anticipate no use...

...“Thought the moment we throw anything away, we’ll find a job for which it’s just what we need”. The joinery wood's been sorted – short, medium, long – and stored neatly across cypress beams in the eaves, themselves temporarily removed, the ends that enter the wall sawn of rotting tips and treated with preservative. 
*** ***
Meantime emails go to and from our Inverness solicitor about mum’s estate and I, we, have to worry about the sale of mum’s house, the lochan – our thirty year secret place – her holdings, assets, chattels, all the banality of probate; converting what was hallowed into quantity. How sensible it was to put everything on a long boat and send it to sea to burn and sink in the deep, beyond expectations.
Picnic by the lochan

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