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Saturday 28 December 2013

Black Patch Park - striving to renew a place

The Friends of Black Patch Park meet in the Soho Foundry Pub. Ron Collins, our Chair, on the left.

Stacey takes us through a CAD-CAM plan for Black Patch Park
A few days before Christmas I met up with my friends Andrew Simons and Phil Crumpton to design a tour of Black Patch Park. They, I and others have campaigned to save and restore this park for over ten years. A mix of protest, with lobbying by letter and meetings - plus the economic crisis - saved the place from ill-judged plans to designate this small green space for industrial building. Vital to the campaign has been the historical research and involvement of the Birmingham and Black Country historian, Ted Rudge. As well as collecting many messages and images from people in different parts of the world who recall childhood on the Black Patch, Ted has documented the enduring link between the Black Patch and the Gypsies...
The Loveridges, descendants of those evicted in 1910, campaigning in 2004, to save Black Patch Park.
...forcibly evicted from the area in the early 20th century to create a park, Gypsies whose descendants a century later joined with the Friends to campaign against building on the Black Patch.

This was from the first Wikipedia piece I wrote about the park in 2006. Black Patch Park and the adjoining Merry Hill allotments are 2.5 miles north-west of the centre of Birmingham on the Sandwell side of the city boundary, surrounded north, east and south by railway embankments. One of these carries the West Coast main line that with the A41 and Birmingham Mainline canal are the arteries, old and new, of what is now known as the city’s 'North West Corridor of Regeneration'. In the centre of Black Patch Park, Boundary Brook, which for centuries marked the boundary between Staffordshire and Warwickshire, meets Hockley Brook, which once separated the country towns of Handsworth and Smethwick.
Black Patch is a green pentagonal edged by Foundry Lane to the west and south, Woodburn Road to the north, and Perrott Street and Kitchener Street to the east beyond which, as far as Handsworth New Road, stretches the fertile triangle of Merry Hill Allotments.
Lying amid intersections, boundaries and important routes, Black Patch Park’s twenty plus acres have a special aura. Sometimes this place can be sunny and convivial, at others times, shaded, misty – especially at first light – and a little eerie; one moment a serene and peaceful place full of birdsong and the sound of breeze in the trees, another moment full of human activity and passing trains seemingly on every side.
Of course revisions removed all those unreferenced  'opinions' - quite rightly.  I have not mentioned Kitchener Street which marches along the south west border of the Black Patch. It was once lined by terraced houses. These were demolished in 1980. Kitchener Street was gated in January 2009 under Section 129A of the Highways Act 1980 - a measure intended by Sandwell MBC to prevent fly-tipping along its length.
Kitchener Street in 2008

Phil and Andrew met me near the bridge in the centre of the park. I followed them with pencil and notebook as we discussed suitable places to stop and talk about an aspect of the park...
Philip and Andrew by the bridge at the junction of Boundary and Hockley Brooks - 22 Dec 2013

Notes prepared by Simon Baddeley, Phil Crumpton and Andrew Simon - for the Friends of Black Patch Park on a meeting in the park on Sunday 22 December 2013  to plan a visitors’ tour of the park
1. “Where we stand”, 52° 29.899', -1° 56.650'   The bridge. Our tour starts at the ancient boundaries of Anglo-Saxon lands, where two streams meet...
...Hockley Brook and Boundary Brook. Bridged now; once a an area where a hundred and fifty years ago  'the earth seems to have been turned inside out.'*
The Black Country Kaulo = a Romany word referring to a common or heath, a term which is said to have originated with the large black waste lands about Birmingham and 1830 James Nasmyth, a pioneer of the machine tool industry, walking across the area, wrote...'The earth seems to have been turned inside out. Its entrails are strewn about; nearly the entire surface of the ground is covered with cinder heaps and mounds of scoriae. The coal which has been drawn from below ground is blazing on the surface. The district is crowded with iron furnaces, puddling furnaces, and coal-pit engine furnaces. By day and by night the country is glowing with fire, and the smoke of the ironworks hovers over it. There is a rumbling and clanking of iron forges and rolling mills. Workmen covered with smut, and with fierce white eyes, are seen moving about amongst the glowing iron and the dull thud of forge-hammers.
 Amidst these flaming, smoky, clanging works, I beheld the remains of what had once been happy farmhouses, now ruined and deserted.'
Boundary Brook in summer

2. Black Patch and the Gypsies - "magic hanging in the air" 52° 29.950', -1° 56.673'   On the rough path into the park just off Woodburn Road and opposite Anne Road. Here we speak of the Industrial terrain of the Black Country – high undulating banks of slag, foundry waste. Detritus and oily trickling waterways – and learn about the Gypsies with Black Patch Park and how they were violently evicted from here in order to found Black Patch Park in 1905.
We chat with Michelle and Bridget and families on the Black Patch in June 2011
The story, as told by Ted Rudge, of Queen Henty and her husband. Her curse on anyone who builds on the Black Patch. (Her ghost - scroll down this 2011 blog entry to read an account)
Queen Henty

Bryn Phillips "Queen Henty might put a curse on you"

3. From a place to a limbo, 52° 29.929', -1° 56.821'  Standing on the pavement next to the park just where the Hockley Brook passes under Woodburn Road. What was once a ‘place’ before the industrial revolution and continued as a space between factories for dumping waste and as a Gypsy settlement has, post-industrialisation, become almost a non-place, its surrounding factories mostly derelict and the surrounding population, once its users, decanted from the area. This is the challenge for the future of the Black Patch, on the boundary of two local councils, to be better recognised as a stewarded public space. recalled with nostalgia by people who once lived by, and played in the park.
A place: 1953 Coronation Day on the Black Patch (photo: Alan and Dorothy Smith)

Woodburn Road 2013 ~ limbo

4. The Old Main Entrance to the Black Patch, 52° 29.916', -1° 56.848'  From a position just inside a corner of the park where Woodburn Road meets a bend in Foundry Road. An avenue of mature London Plane trees runs south-east against a background of Grey Poplars lining the Boundary Brook on the other side of the main playing field. This is one of the finest views of a typical late Victorian Park, snowy black and white in winter; a feast of greenery in summer. and...

...if you gaze slightly right from the tree-lined avenue, you glimpse a long mound, intended over a decade ago, to be a BMX track. Just before that, covered by greenery is all that remains of the small cottage that was the home of Mrs.Hill.  Before the cottage was built, this was a camp-site - parking for a vardo in which Hannah Chaplin, née Hill, gave birth, in 1889, to a baby boy.
Charlie Chaplin by Peter Ackroyd, Chatto & Windus: London 2014, p.4
Transcript of a particular letter that Chaplin, who received millions of letters, kept on its own in a locked drawer
Charles Chaplin had his upbringing - a difficult one - in south London, but unless there's credible rebuttal, Smethwick's Black Patch, rather than London's Southwalk, has become the great comedian's strongly rumoured birthplace - 52°29'53.3"N 1°56'49.6"W
Hannah Chaplin, née Hill

The Chaplin birthplace conjecture was artfully fuelled in the TV series Peaky Blinders, series 2, episode 5 (2013) - creator and writer Steven Knight:
"...I was a bookie in Birmingham, then he went to Los Angeles.
You see, Wag is also a Romany Gypsy, as is Chaplin.
But he keeps it a secret.
Chaplin was born on the Black Patch, a Gypsy camp in Birmingham..."
Back to the future 2/8/15: I made a video recording on Sunday 26th July 2015. It shows Ted Rudge, author of Brum Roamin' and Charlie Chaplin's son, Michael Chaplin, visiting Black Patch Park. The clip records a gathering of Gypsies and friends at the bridge in the centre of Black Patch park, where a memorial has been set up, recording the association of Romany with the Black Patch. Michael Chaplin speaks of his belief that his father was born here....

5. The Coppice, 52° 29.811', -1° 56.726'   Having strolled down the SE avenue, we stop where the path divides, to meet an exit into Foundry Lane just before the Soho Triangle of the old LNW Railway or north east along the edge of Boundary Brook. This was a confluence of local population, industrial buildings and parkland; the park ill-tended; the population dispersed; the industry departed. There are views to be restored, easy to see with a selective cutback of shrubbery and windfall saplings, of the Victorian railway viaduct and embankment to the south, old industrial roof tops to the north west and, due east, the distinctive square redbrick tower of Bishop Latimer Community Church.
The coppice

6. Warwickshire triangle 52° 29.879', -1° 56.625'. We stroll north east along the west bank of the Hockley Brook the main playing field on our left, cross the bridge, and enter the overgrown area of the Black Patch bounded by Perrott Street and Kitchener Street where there was a Primary School whose playground markings and concrete turtles still show through brambles and brush, the space so overgrown it is near impossible to see the older tree lines. There’s an entrance to the park off Perrott Street which brings you to a small undulating green sward, isolated from the rest of the Black Patch.
Warwickshire Triangle

7. The Main Playing Field, 52° 29.875', -1° 56.728'  Walk back across the bridge and head south west to the centre of the main playing field. Here is an opportunity to gaze about at the original space that was created by John Nettlefold's Birmingham Playgrounds, Open Spaces and Playing Fields Society to meet the needs of the new industrial population that surrounded the Black Patch. It is an area that is still much used by footballers of the Warley League.

8. Soho Foundry, 52°29'50.46", -1°56'50.94"  Stand beneath the imposing gateway of the Soho Foundry, opposite its eponymous pub where the tour can end with a drink and snack. This place is a prime target on the 1940s German air reconnaissance maps - some of them which we saw in the Avery Historical Museum entered below this gateway – the centre of an industrial hive.
Black Patch Park is closely NW of the 3 parallel roads - Wills, Markby and Preston - 
at the lower right hand corner of the 1940s Luftwaffe reconnaissance photo
It is also where our tour might continue - exploring the remains of the Soho Foundry and, still standing and part-used, the 19th century houses, first to be lit by gas.
Andrew and Phil

Black Patch Park was saved from building, but it remains a blighted and derelict space

*E-mail from Phil Crumpton on 15 Feb 2014 re that place in Black Patch Park: 
Hi, Simon...Mercia before William  Conqueror, Kingdom of Mercia was almost the monopoly of England outside Essex, Wessex, East Anglia and Kent with Sussex.  Western area was mostly Welsh border and still to be tribally fought over.
WHERE BLACK PATCH ( then Handsworth Plain and Pre-'Smithwick' ) ended up as a camping site for Roma was to form a later eastern boundary to pre-date the convergence of Staffordshire; Worcestershire and Warkwickshire.  That's where we (3) stood on the bridge as the brooks joined up in the park.  We have to work on County Boundaries that also differentiate the site from the Norsk Invasion period that saw so much pre-industrial fallowness.  People were more welcome to 'live' at the Patch in those times than they are accommodated, today...!
Let me know what you think.  Watching (videoes) and brushing up on my Smith Wick knowledge over this weekend.  See you on tuesday night at the AGM where I think there's likely to be many hours of lively discussion. Phil.
If I was adding to points on this tour I'd include the way in and out of the area that brings a visitor to Black Patch Park via the Birmingham Mainline Canal towpath, up Avery Road to meet Foundry Road - a hedged path almost a tunnel - 52.495691, -1.947895 - at the bottom of the Avery Road cul-de-sac. It  leads about 100 yards via a couple of kinks to and from the waters of the canal and its towpath back two miles or so eastward into Birmingham or six or seven miles westward to Wolverhampton.
The path to Black Patch Park from the canal

Cycle and walking path from Avery Road to the canal towpath - a Sustrans route
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My longing for Greece is palpable. In days from the cold Adriatic I shall touch the concrete at ugly Igoumenitsa Port. We'll walk a kilometre to the ferries for Corfu.
A view from Ano Korakiana - the ferry from Venice to Igoumenitsa in the centre of the Kerkyra Sea

The Philharmonic Christmas Concert on Sunday, December 29, 2013, is in the church of St. George, in our village στο χωριό μας....
Χριστουγεννιάτικη Συναυλία
Η Χριστουγεννιάτικη συναυλία της Φιλαρμονικής την 
Κυριακή 29 Δεκεμβρίου 2013, στην εκκλησία του Άη-Γιώργη, στο χωριό μας.
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These last few months have been spent working on the soil of my allotment. I've invested in manure and topsoil and paid someone younger and stronger than I to spread and dig it in.  My neighbouring plots seem neglected, even for winter, after small bursts of enthusiasm earlier in the year...

These allotments are sketches of achievement and shortcoming; aspiration and lethargy. How appropriate that the word ‘plot’ also means 'story'; in mine and my heighbours' cases. biographies - more complicated than the original purpose, which was an allotted piece of ground off which a working man, often an émigré driven from the countryside, could feed his city family. These allotments test more than our craft as gardeners. Standing on my rented ground I gaze hopefully at a mirror.
The shed came free. We got it for the cost of transport via Freecycle. I repainted it, re-roofed it and added a veranda. Inside it's neat. I keep only hand tools there, most hung neatly on hooks. My neighbour's bees, to the west of the shed, are surviving the winter so far. We continue to take out couch grass, removing the spreading white roots and their rhizomes. Some of the plot is covered in black polythene - bringing the couch roots to the surface for elimination. Just to the east of the shed, four builder's bags are composting green waste. There's a water tank beside the shed door - a gift from a neighbour. The whole plot has been deep dug over several times. The collection of middle sized stones is getting larger as these are sifted out and separated from the soil. They're flattish and round, a reminder of how millions of years ago a wide warm river ran through this part of the world, Our five fruit trees have survived another year. We are half through the fourth year of the tenure for which I signed on the Victoria Jubilee Allotments. My plot is just acceptable; just satisfactory; clearly being worked. Having campaigned ten years to prevent the whole area being used for building, this is a small island in which I rejoice.
June 2010 - Adrian Stagg welcomes new gardeners on the opening days of the VJA
Plot 14 in summer 2010 

Wednesday 25 December 2013

A memory in black and white

Our Christmas card was posted on the Ano Korakiana website...


Γράφει ο/η Κβκ   
Mother Greece across the Sea of Kerkyra in Winter

Καλά Χριστούγεννα 
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I was so delighted to find this record of the Christmas party held at Fasnakyle House by my aunt and uncle in about 1950. I was 8 or 9.

Victorian aristocracy, including the Queen herself, embraced the Scottish landscape - thanks in part to the new railway. Dr Johnson was more critical. But he and Boswell travelled to the Hebrides before Romanticism trained the lowland eye to delight in highland scenery and railways made them easy to visit from the cities of the south. It was depicted as a wild heather-strewn wilderness. In fact it's an enormous park, stocked with ornamental fauna to shoot, paint or photograph; and now every track that doesn't pass under Forestry Commission plantations can be viewed from the air via Google maps. Does this make me love it less?
I'm not an explorer here, more a traveller, even a life-long tourist, inheriting the safety of the land's long habitation by people who made roads and place markers for centuries before the Victorians, let alone me, coming first to the Highlands in 1949 on the sleeper from King's Cross to spend Easter with my aunt at Fasnakyle, her home beyond Cannich, in Glen Affric, and later to celebrate a magical Christmas (in this photo I found at Am Baile, Bay and I are in the middle row, left and right of the tree - Bay just in front of Father Christmas).
My aunt had hired a film projector and we all sat down to watch Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. We and the rest of the children were laughing so loud and so continuously, one or two little ones had to disappear to be sick before rejoining the general hilarity. (It's so good to have help identifying the others in the picture and hoping they also remember all that laughing at slapstick custard pies and silly walks from so long ago). Then Father Christmas - the estate's head ghillie (I believe), I was told years later when I no longer entirely believed in Santa Claus, arrived - and presents were handed out to all after which my aunt organised us to have a group photo with many calls to settle down and look serious just for the camera. This is why we show little sign of the excitement and joy that suffused us. I know I was fit to burst - needing one titter to set me off again.
The human past is part of the area's character - kingdoms, invasions, depravity and civilisation, even where the rigour of the landscape suggests wilderness, anyone with a little thought can see there's more wilderness in the blighted estates of our population-diminished cities than in this sublimely landscaped garden for the enjoyment of those with time to spare, good raincoats and midge repellent. It's true that in the depth of raw winter you're sensible, if stuck somewhere on a drifted road, to have a care to stay in your car and phone the rescue services
Quote from Am Baile: This is a Christmas party held at Fasnakyle House in the early 1950s for the children of employees on the Fasnakyle estate, Strathglass. The estate was owned at the time by Captain Clark. Four members of the Mitchell family have recently been identified in the photograph - Marcelle Mitchell and three of her daughters, Monique, Christine, and Lesley. Marcelle is the lady kneeling beside the little boy on the right hand side of the photograph. Monique is standing near the back, next to Father Christmas. Christine is in the second row. (She has a ribbon in her hair and her face is half hidden by the girl in front.) Lesley is the small blond girl in the front row, holding a present. The girls' father, Mr. William Mitchell B.E.M., was the General Foreman for Messrs John Cochrane & Sons, Ltd, the company who built the Hydro Electric dam in Glen Affric. A fourth sister, Lyn, was born in 1952.
A letter received 19 Oct 09:
 “Also in this picture are Margaret and Kenneth MacLennan, family of John MacLennan, (Johnny to guests, Jock to natives), who was head stalker at Fasnakyle. He succeeded his father, also John, to this position in l941.
Kenny is the little boy (2nd, front row, left, holding his present), he still lives
nearby on estate with his wife and family. Margaret (1st back row, left) has
married and moved away. Their mother Mary was caretaker for Fasnakyle Lodge. Beside Margaret is Lily Henderson whose sister Cathy is (2nd row right,
kneeling, nearly out of picture). Their father, James Henderson, also a stalker,
worked and lived on Fasnakyle Estate.
On 31 Oct 2011 I received this letter:
Dear Mr.Baddeley. I can identify two more people in the Christmas at Fasnakyle house photo. I loved the photo and was very touched to see the innocent faces that I shared a portion of my young life with. The little girl center right with the mask is Frances I think her mother is behind her to the right. I also knew Kenny Mclennan, the young boy to the left.We were all playmates at the time, living on the Fasnakyle estate. My parents were German immigrants who emigrated to Scotland in 1950 to work on the estate.
I was allowed to join them in 1952 and experienced one of those wonderful Christmas' at the Fasnakyle house, one year later than the photo. My father was the Chauffeur for Captain Clarke. The two men met during the British occupation in Northern Germany where my father acted as an interpreter for the British officers. The two men must have hit it off. A small reason may have been that they had something in common. My name was also Margot. My mother was the cook at the house. Frances and I went to school together in Cannich, she was a close friend and I have a school picture of her. What wonderful years they were. I think about them often...My life in the Fasnakyle House was a major event in my life and I am planning to take a trip there next year. I have not been back since 1955. Best wishes, Margot Luedke (Ludke)
Strathnairn in January 2012 - on many walks I'll not make more
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Clear skies for Christmas Day in Handsworth.

As Linda and Dot worked in the kitchen getting ready for lunch, I cycled with Oscar to our allotment and raised a couple of pounds of Jerusalem Artichokes from the clogging earth, washed them clean under the tap by the plot, and took them home to bake with the rest of our Christmas meal. Three generations of us gathered, and with crackers and a bombardment of poppers, sat down.
Lin and I, Christmas lunch - Richard's picture

I took my turn in washing up before, in falling dusk, my son-in-law and daughter and I and Oscar strolled about Handsworth Park, having the place almost to ourselves - an oasis of quiet amid the muted hum of traffic; the calling of duck and geese, black dots on the still water; window lights glimpsed through the branches of leafless trees. Oliver fought sleep so we did a second round of the pond getting home in darkness, to sit down again for Christmas pudding, flamed with blue-burning brandy, laced with cream. Oliver wakes. We rise and go next door where there's a coal fire and sparkling tree. We share presents. For me a jar of Marmite that'll last half a year, Patum Peperium pots, thermal underwear, chocolate and several police procedurals from other countries.
Oliver seemed to like his Christmas present - the toy cooker we've made out of a wooden locker left in the street and collected by Handsworth Helping Hands a few weeks ago. Washers, handle, nuts and bolts, hinges and screws came from a small ironmongers up the Lozells Road; cookware from Poundland; cooker rings, used DVDs; controls sawn from a discarded broom handle.  Into the evening the boy struggled to stay awake; the first Christmas he will remember? At last he, and then his father, fell asleep.

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Τα πρώτα Κάλαντα στην Άνω Κορακιάνα - The First Carols in Ano Korakiana
Τα πρώτα Κάλαντα ήχησαν ολίγον πρώιμα, χθες το απόγευμα, από παιδιά μικρών ηλικιών του χωριού και μάλιστα με τη συνοδεία οργάνων. Πολύγλωσσα ακούσματα, από τα παραδοσιακά κορακιανίτικα κάλαντα, έως και γνωστά ξένα χριστουγεννιάτικα κομμάτια, δημιούργησαν μια χαρούμενη ατμόσφαιρα με αρκετή δόση από «Βαβέλ».

Η πρώτη Λειτουργία των Χριστουγέννων θα τελεστεί σήμερα το πρωί, παραμονή της εορτής, στο μοναστήρι του Αγίου Ονουφρίου, ως είθισται τα τελευταία χρόνια. Με λιγοστό εκκλησίασμα, ένα ψαλτήρι (και αυτό κατά τα δύο τρίτα κορακιανίτικο), αλλά και τέσσερεις ιερείς (παπα-Κώστας, παπα-Γιώργης, παπα-Αλέξανδρος και παπα-Πέτρος)…Κεκλεισμένων (λόγω κρύου) των θυρών, υπό το φως των κεριών και τη ζεστασιά μιας σόμπας.

param_xrist2013b.jpgΣτο απολείτουργο, η επίτροπος της μονής θα μας προσκαλέσει στο αρχονταρίκι για καφέ συνοδευόμενο με κονιάκ, ούζο και κουλούρια, ενώ ο εκ των ιερέων θα ανανεώσει το ραντεβού στον ίδιο τόπο, για την παραμονή των Φώτων.

Υ.Γ.1.Μετά το αρχονταρίκι και τον εξωτερικό μαντρότοιχο της μονής, υπό επισκευή έχει τεθεί το καμπαναριό.
param_xrist2013c.jpg2.Φετινές Κορακιανίτικες παρουσίες: ο Γιώργος Κένταρχος και ο Γιώργος Μαρτζούκος στο ψαλτήρι, ο Γιάννης Κοντοστάνος στην επιστασία του ιερού και φυσικά ο παπα-Κώστας.

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'Σε σύγκριση με προηγούμενες χρονιές το γενικότερο κλίμα της εορτής στο χωριό θα είναι εμφανώς συγκρατημένο, λόγω και της δύσκολης συγκυρίας' - 'Compared to previous years the overall tone of the celebration in the village will be visibly restrained, because of the difficult times'

Monday 23 December 2013


Our Christmas tree in Birmingham
In Athens in 2008 the Municipal Christmas tree had rubbish thrown at it and was set on fire.
This year the City has not put up a Christmas tree and has cut back spending on other decorations; instead there is a sailing ship* in lights; in Greece more a symbol of Christmas than a tree.

Syntagma Square Πλατεία Συντάγματος ~ Χριστούγεννα Christmas 2013

Volunteers for Doctors of the World - Médecins du Monde  -  have made a Christmas tree out of milk cartons by the University of Athens.

Around Keratsini near Piraeus, a band of activist technicians is illegally re-connecting the power supply of people, who after losing their electricity supply have been relying on oil lamps, and for cooking and warmth, propane gas.
In some richer suburbs,  Filothei and Paleo Psychiko if not Kifissia or Ekali, hanging on are the ravaged middle classes, ashamed of their plight; their investments turned into costs, their assets into liabilities. Back from tree-lined streets and unkempt back gardens, stand detached houses with closed shutters, lights-off, empty garages - discrete desperation.
Our daughter and her cousins at the Pentelikon in Kifissia in 1997
*St. Nicholas is important in Greece as the patron saint of sailors...clothes drenched with brine, his beard drips with seawater, his face covered with perspiration because he has been working hard against the waves to rescue sailors. Christmas ranks second to Easter among holidays....On Christmas Eve, village children travel from house to house offering good wishes and singing kalends καλέντα, carols... accompanied by small metal triangles and little clay drums. The children get sweets and dried fruits as gifts. On almost every table are loaves of Christopsomo Χριστόψωμο ("Christ Bread");  large sweet loaves engraved and decorated to reflect a family's profession. Christmas trees are not commonly used in Greece. The main symbol of the season is a sprig of basil wrapping a wooden cross. A family member dips the cross and basil into holy water and uses it to sprinkle water in each room of the house to keep away the Killantzaroi Καλικάντζαρος, goblins and sprites who appear during the 12-days between Christmas to Epiphany on January 6. The Killantzaroi extinguish fires, ride astride people's backs, braid horses' tails, sour the milk and so on. Gifts are exchanged on St. Basil's Day on January 1 - the day of the 'renewal of the waters', when jugs in the house are emptied and refilled with new St. Basil's Water.
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We were eating lunch for Amy's birthday at the Boar's Head, our neighbour Baljinder's fusion restaurant in Perry Barr. Lin had driven through rain and wind to Cannock to bring her mum and dad who are with us for Christmas. Liz came with Sophia, now three months old. Richard picked me up and we drove to the pub together. Amy, Guy and Oliver joined us. Our son's good with his nephew. They enjoy each other.
The contemplation of jelly
Bringing Nan home for Christmas

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Last week a red letter from Ano Korakiana arrived for us with one of its beautiful stamps upside down...

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Simon Baddeley