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Monday, 26 August 2013

London for the day

London was all grey overcast and drizzle. Big planes emerged, flaps down, turbines whistling, slowly processing at five minute intervals over central London down to Heathrow.
On Albert Bridge
I caught the fast morning train to London, pensioner's concession - hardly £32 return - with plenty of room in August; a frisson of sadness for departed mum when I see the intercity waiting to start for Glasgow Central on the New Street platform where I wait for my train south. I didn't feel her in the Highlands as we cleared Brin Croft but here, where I could recall the pleasant anticipation of one of my long journey's north, I did, and always will no doubt.

I cycled the familiar route - Gordon Street opposite Euston, past hedged Torrington Square and on to Trafalgar Square threading the congestion, down Whitehall past the Houses of Parliament onto the Embankment...
Thames embankment with sleepers

 ...straight on along the new blue cycle route to where it crosses the river at Chelsea Bridge and on half a mile to frail Albert Bridge, then across the brown river to take a right on to Parkgate Street. Just before it meets Battersea Bridge Road is Phoenix Cycles where I leave my Brompton with Mike, and his son Tom, for servicing. Meantime at a greasy spoon, run by Vietnamese, I take Full English beside tattooed workers in hi-vis tabards; one more - an African - arrives smoking a cheroot...
...the scent of musty paper and rich earth burning clashes with the buttered toast bacon black pudding sausage beans aroma of my classic ethnic meal
"You're spoiling my breakfast" I mumble as traffic rumbles by our outdoor tables. I'm ignored for a minute to save face and then the cheroot is stubbed. Later I count the cost of repairing my bicycle; a whole new back wheel unit as I've no time for rebuilding a wheel whose hub has worn paper thin with use. That also means a new chain and hub gears; new saddle; new brake blocks, and general tightening up and the best new tyres I can afford. I've removed the dynamo and lights front and rear, in favour of LEDs, now so efficient and cheap. Mike's bill is over £300 but the bicycle I bought from him in 2004, for £699, feels like new (perhaps better as I know it so well), as I ride it happily back across the Thames via the carriage road through Battersea Park. over Chelsea Bridge and along the river again until I turn left towards Victoria...

...where I'm to meet my friend Charles Webster from Delta Leisure at Seafresh on Wilton Road for fish and chips and tea and beer, to discuss what I'm doing with Jack's film-tape archive...
Out of Town - Restored to life. Charles with the blue-print we've discussed for tape-film synchs
Then back up Whitehall, up Charing Cross Road to Euston and another fast train home, enjoying my latest procedural - the intelligent work of Grijpstra and de Gier in The Blond Baboon by Janwillem van de Wetering; back home in time to take the minutes of a meeting of Handsworth Helping Hands, including a querying of our guest - my friend Andrew Simons, now its Community Engagement Officer - about an ambitious local investment, in which HHH might be involved. In common with similar central government initiatives across the country, it's called in our area, Birchfield Big Local, and those most directly involved, in particular Raj Rattu, a lapsed member of HHH, have recently been in receipt of £20,000 to spend on planning how to spend  a promised £1000000.
Handsworth Helping Hands discussing possible involvement with Big Local after Andrew's left
From our FB pages:
**** ****
Jan Didrichsen has sent me one of his valued emails:
Hi Simon
Back from South of France, trying to get my brain back into gear (with some difficulty) having gorged on Nordic Noir thrillers for the best part of 3 weeks, a bit of an addict I am afraid, must be a dark Nordic undercurrent in my psychology. All those formative years enduring long dark winters in sub-zero temperatures have probably left an imprint (well that’s my excuse!) Have been following your blog. Some worrying political developments in Greece esp around Golden DawnEDL are clearly trying to create something similar here but our circumstances (at the moment) are more resilient than those in Greece. Would you agree with that? But there is no reason to be complacent. The whole issue of immigration and everything tied into it has gone to the top of the political agenda. There is a danger of a 'race to the bottom'. There seems to be a competition between parties as to who can be the toughest without any clear idea of what that actually means in practice other than deliberately or otherwise stoking irrational and potentially poisonous responses and circumstances. A rational and well informed debate on this issue would actually be positive but I fear we are beyond the point where this is possible. Too many 'Sacred Cows' across the whole political spectrum will have to be culled for this to happen.
Reflecting in the sunshine on a Mediterranean beach I was beginning to question my own commitment to evidence based policy formulation and a rational approach to politics. Regrettably but not surprisingly, emotions, prejudice, perceptions fuelled by anxiety and anger, are the major driving forces in political development and processes; all of which creates, and is sustained, by strong ideologies. We know that facts are manipulated to serve ideological ends; so called 'independent' think tanks are fronts to promote certain  ideologies, financially  supported by vested interests. I am struggling to weave any meaningful Localism into this scenario. I note with interest that you are reading Michael Burleigh's book on the Third Reich. His linkage of politics in the Third Reich to religious crusades is an interesting one with a wider application than just the Third Reich. It’s a very attractive proposition for certain politicians. You may find his more recent book 'Moral Combat' (an oxymoron?) interesting in parts. You are no doubt familiar with Goldhagen’s controversial book. Whether you agree with all his analysis or not it is depressing to note how easy it was to recruit ordinary people including public servants to carry out mass murder on an unprecedented scale; no coercion or threats were necessary. That’s the power of ideology based on prejudice, misinformation, anger, fear, hate and associated irrationalities. It does not need threats or force to be successful or the threats can just be  implied and hidden.
The story of Police Battalion 101 is a warning from history. Can’t work out what all this means for localism or local democracy but it feels relevant somehow.
It would be good to meet up sometime this autumn. I have treated myself to another monstrous 4X4 vehicle so you may not want to be seen in public with me!
*** *** ***
I have been continuing to struggle with the small piece of land I rent next to Handsworth Park - Plot 14 on the Victoria Jubilee Allotments. My plot is hard on me, repaying my neglect; my inadequacy as a steward; my lack of prescience about just how much work it would require:
...An allotment is a test of character. This is what wasps and slugs have done to some of my produce. It makes me more determined to succeed but I do understand why so many people have been abandoning their middle class dreams of growing their own vegetables. I see now why peasants and poor farmers, if not forced of their land by exploiting landlords, also wanted to migrate to the cities and buy their food with their wages rather than with the sweat of their brows.

  • Tracey Parsons That's why we haven't done ours this year. The time involved over the past three years just keeping the caterpillars and mice away was just too much but we are planning trying again next year. We need better netting but we have no idea how to keep the field mice away from our strawberries and raspberries! The wasps eat our apples and the birds eat the cherries before we have time to pick anything! It's such a shame as we have a lovely veggie plot. Good luck Simon.. 
    5 hours ago via mobile · Unlike · 2
  • Zena Phillips Referring back to an earlier post of yours Simon, our school had an allotment. while the girls were in the domestic science room learning how to make bread, preseve eggs in isinglass, gut and fillet fish etc, the boys had to walk to and work on the allotment
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  • Simon Baddeley Modern farmers deal with this with spraying, netting and sheer volume. The only way as I see it to do this on a small scale is more or less 24/7 care. Those apples were just getting ripe when the wasps struck. Perhaps I should have picked them while they were still unripe and left them to ripen on a shelf. I could I suppose have put a net around the marrow. Some gardeners just go over their vegetables picking off every slug as it is found and plonking them in a bowl of water. I've found slug pellets useless. The first rain washes them away and the idea of beer in saucers doesn't work well in practice...excuses excuses. It's a big analogy! People these days feel they are out of control of their lives in an unforgiving world. Think of country people trying to grow their food in centuries past. Everything changes. Everything remains the same.
    4 hours ago · Edited · Like · 1
  • Derek Watts I find the wellies and torch is a very effective slug deterrent on wet evenings, the old methods have their place too, soot for those with chimneys and if you have dogs their hair clogs the little buggers up. Best of all would be black beetles a voracious slug predator.
    4 hours ago · Edited · Unlike · 2
  • Zena Phillips I used to use companion planting and choosing your crops. I didn't have an allotment, but a lovely big veg garden area. I grew a row of comfrey for plant food, green manure between crops, asparagus and artichokes etc. I found the Henry Doubleday Institute invaluable, always my first port of call in the marquee at Chelsea..
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  • Derek Watts Zena do you use the comfrey leaves to make a liquid manure my uncles swore by it.
    4 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Zena Phillips Yes. more potency than Tomorite so you have to dilute carefully - also make sure that the brew is furthest away from the house that you possibly can.
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  • Derek Watts I think I was aware of that 45 gallons brewing up tend to clear the sinuses very quickly.
    4 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Derek Watts I forgot to mention we have a herd of toads in the greenhouse and compost heap lovely guys. They do however need rescuing now and again from the dog drinker.
    4 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Simon Baddeley Help. Not help! but helpful. Thanks.
  • Zena Phillips I used to harvest first thing in the morning, select what I needed and deliver the excess to the village shop on my way to work. We would go fifty fifty on his sales so I always covered my costs. I also had Apple, plum and pear trees and soft fruit. I would even have people waiting outside the shop for me to arrive with my just picked harvest.
    4 hours ago via mobile · Edited · Like
  • Derek Watts Something well worth the effort if you have a metal dustbin lid or similar just place it on the ground ideally in the shade the slugs will congregate underneath it allowing easy collecting soon get the numbers down.
    4 hours ago · Like · 1

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Simon Baddeley