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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

On the allotment

The skies opened on us yesterday afternoon. Oscar and I sheltered under the shed veranda. Oliver decided to stand in the rain amid thunder and lightning and a shower of hail.
'Come here, Oliver!"

He refuses shelter. Thunder cracks; trees swirl.
I suppose he presents a smaller area to the weather. That's a rough speculation. This is about the pleasure of instant mud, puddles and dripping greenery. I must put up guttering on at least two edges of the shed to harvest rain like this. I had the wicked idea when sipping tea...

...a nicer version of that frightful father in Yorgos Lanthimos' brilliantly horrid film Dogtooth Κυνόδοντας imprinting his isolated children with toxic inaccuracies about the names of common objects.

Oliver and I will plant some random seeds on Plot 14. A few days later, after I've prepared the ground in his absence, we'll harvest small toys. Maybe not. I like that he sees and helps collect potatoes to eat emerging under my fork from the earth, and sees beans in their pods cut from their stalks to be on his plate in the evening.
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To our delight there arrived, a few days ago, a letter from Angeliki, with sweet greetings to the family from Ano Korakiana, including a card congratulating Amy on the birth of Hannah...
...and expressing happiness that her grandfather now has a Greek and English Wikipedia entry. "On the 30th June my sister also gave birth to a healthy boy, my first nephew, so I understand your feelings" Of the continued search for Aristeidis Metallinos she writes:
When you'll be back in Ano Korakiana you can continue your work as you have planned STEP BY STEP. The doors of the 'μουσείο' are and will be always open to you, Linda and whoever you want. My mother respects both of you. You know that!!! You are also free to write on your blog whatever you think it can help my grandfather's recognition.
Such joy to read these words; also that Angeliki and her family, after Andreas met them on Democracy Street, had been able to welcome Thannasis Spingos and Kostas Apergis - scribes and historians of Ano Korakiana - to the Museum.
...Πάντα στον νου σου νάχεις την Ιθάκη.
Το φθάσιμον εκεί είν’ ο προορισμός σου.
Aλλά μη βιάζεις το ταξείδι διόλου.
Καλλίτερα χρόνια πολλά να διαρκέσει·
και γέρος πια ν’ αράξεις στο νησί,
πλούσιος με όσα κέρδισες στον δρόμο,
μη προσδοκώντας πλούτη να σε δώσει η Ιθάκη...
In pursuit of those 'steps' I took the train on the three hour journey north to meet Dr Alexandra Moschovi. I'd contacted her back in May to ask if she could share thoughts on the laic sculptor. I'm digesting our discussion, working through Alexandra's many insights on Aristeidis.
Meeting Alexandra Moschovi in Newcastle to explore the world of Aristeidis Metallinos

8th August from Birmingham:
Dear Alexandra. What a fascinating visit for me, with lots of new ideas and encouragement on the subject of our - now I dare hope - shared interest in the laic sculptor of Ano Korakiana. I have this morning posted you two DVDs containing images from my visits to the Aristeidis Metallinos ‘Museum’ - some are my photos or Linda’s, but mainly they are by Angeliki Metallinos of the works of her grandfather, which she does not claim as adequate representations. ...As we agree the images are in no special order and so represent rather ‘raw’ data. Yes! A catalogue is vital.
 You have encouraged me in the important task of giving a context to AM’s work (I just noticed the coincidence of initials!) by checking the historical time-line that accompanies the sculptor's working, especially the significance of the year 1981.
I am also alerted to his likely exposure to a number of popular Greek films...more alert to the impact of some of AM’s themes within a village, especially if there are even more sensitive issues of his relationships with others in the village...Given that AM said he took up hammer and chisel 'to bear witness to human nature and its weaknesses' «να παρουσιάσω τον άνθρωπο και τα ελαττώματά του» I am unsure whether he himself is involved in these adventures ... or whether AM's work is observational - which could also bring animosity, even spite upon him....  As we discussed, many more things will emerge.
Archbishop Makarios carved in 1974 by Aristeidis Metallinos
I was told by Angeliki that her grandfather sketched his planned works on unfolded cigarette boxes. I hope to see his actual tools and more personal possessions. I hope I may be trusted to see and handle these - with kid gloves.
 Meanwhile I'm delighted you are curious and interested in the same subject. For me it is about the struggle to improve my Greek, but also about my relationship with Ano Korakiana.
I am pleased that you do not see AM's work as pornographic or sexist. I think there are others who may be repelled by some of it; who would wish to censor some of the more ‘grotesque’ or ‘horrifying’ pieces. But is AM a feminist? What novel view of women emerges from this Greek man in his seventies brought up more or less all his life in a pastoral economy.
What did he learn in Albania in the war? What mix of fascination, admiration and excitement, anxiety and even anger and contempt informs Metallinos' experience of the changes in the condition of women during his life - and especially in the 70s and 80s with the great tourist invasion of Greece?

There are aspects of AM’s depiction of sexuality and gendered work that my own maleness may disqualify me from understanding. This is why I am interested in Lin’s views. I know Angeliki is as close to her as she is to me - the English couple!
Your gaze and critical view as a woman is an addition to your academic perspective on Aristeidis Metallinos.

There is also the matter of how his relations with his children and family, and especially Eleni, influenced him. I have the believe that he was passionately and sensually in love with her. Or was he, like some artists, more and more egotistical and preoccupied with his marble. His work seems to be a burden on his son Andrea.
Perhaps I fix on some of these matters because I’m an old man.
There’s also the matter of many other sculptures and the lovely reliefs depicting a world that has all but been forgotten, and was passing away with immense rapidity in the last decades of the sculptor’s life.
 In a recent Greek film Lin and enjoyed - Attenberg - the young woman’s father, an architect, observes “We never had an industrial revolution. We built an industrial colony on sheep pens”. All over the world the Greek diaspora partakes and leads in projects of modernisation but in Ano Korakiana there are still remnants of pre-industrial enchantment (about which I am not sentimental any more than I am about ‘democracy').
Thanks again for your interest, your advice and your company in Newcastle. I’m glad the rain held off. 'Σὰ βγεῖς στὸν πηγαιμὸ γιὰ τὴν 'Ιθάκη, νὰ εὔχεσαι νἆναι μακρὺς ὀ δρόμος, γεμάτος περιπέτειες, γεμάτος γνώσεις….'
Kindest regards and my best wishes to your dear family Simon
Αριστείδης Μεταλληνός (1908-1987) ~ his gaze? Are these stone women 'passive'?
In July I asked Jim Potts for his reflections. Jim has seen only photos of AM's but I've greatly valued his and Maria Pott's opinion of the sculptor's work...Jim also said he might try to seek his daughter's reaction. Ditto I, the women in my family:
13th July from Zagori (an extract): Re Metallinos, I feel I need to see his work in situ to really understand his take or stance on women. From the images I have seen, there are works that seem to explore quite different aspects of human relations, and the nature of men and women. I don't feel able to judge which is the dominant strand of his thinking, but he was certainly pushing back the boundaries, and that makes his work unusual and interesting.
At the moment I am struggling with a chapter on Tourism for an American book. Corfu is one of my case studies. I have been gathering information, statistics and anecdotes dealing with the development of tourism since the early 1950s. Like everything else, there are a lot of ambiguities and contradictions, making generalisations very difficult. I have found a theoretical sociological book The Tourist Gaze 3.0 by John Urry and Jonas Larsen very helpful, athough it doesn't deal with Corfu.
What was the nature of the Metallinos "Gaze"?
Did AM's work change and evolve over a period of years, are there various "periods" when he depicts women in one way or another?
His 'gaze'? I need images of Metallinos looking. Not the 'women' but him.
'Αυτός είμαι εγώ ~ That's me' (1980)
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Earlier this month Lin and I went to a BBQ organised by Aftab Rahman - 'quintessential Englishman' - of Legacy WM, in the secret spaces behind terrace houses on the Hamstead Road.
Colin Simms tells how he came to be involved in the re-creation of these handsome terrace houses...

The evening was going to be a little expensive.
"I'd love too come, Aftab. It's a bit dear for us"
"Come anyway and give a talk about Handsworth Park"
So I came with Lin with a brief to sing for my supper.
Photo: David Ash

David Ash was taking pictures. We explored - in and out - a small group of attached gardens behind Colin's houses. The court where we ate was warm from the sun that had followed rain in the early afternoon while Lin and were still 75 miles south working at Rock Cottage. I'd showered, changed, cooled a bottle of wine; still aching from the climbs up Bell Hill, nursing an appetite. Around eight I spoke for about twenty five minutes about the Founding of Handsworth Park.
Photo: David Ash

"You were fine at first" said Lin after "but you read too much from your history"
"I know, it was when I was going over the script of the public meeting where the decision  was made to proceed with Handsworth Park"
I find the past in the present so fascinating. I get carried away. But it was just alright. I rehearsed my account of the political work required to create a park - one that was not a philanthropic gift; which had to be paid for with taxes. I earned us supper.
Photo: David Ash

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While they seem busy, often anything but carefree, with alway more to do than there are hours in the day, we shall recall these weeks, while Amy and Guy stay here with their children, our grandson and new born granddaughter, plus the two dogs, Oscar and Cookie (with her irritating bark), as the happiest of times.
Hannah with her great grand parents
Oliver and his new sister

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Greece's economy - worst since the worst depressions 'in recent memory'.
Greece’s GDP shrank by a mere 0.2% in the second quarter. While still a decline, it’s the smallest drop since the third quarter of 2008—which means that after 24 consecutive quarters of economic contraction, the Greek recession’s end might finally be at a hand. Don’t expect any wild celebrations in the streets of Athens anytime soon, though. The Greek economy has been through hell over the last few years. Unemployment is an atrocious 27%. And roughly 25% of the economy has been destroyed since the peak in late 2007. That collapse in economic output puts the Greek recession right up there with the worst depressions in recent memory.
In Ano Korakiana, in the courtyard of Saint Athanasios; Anastasia Metallinou and Sakis Karanikolas gave villagers a recital of beautiful melodies from the repertoire of Manos Hadjidakis.

Υπό το αδιάκοπο θρόισμα της παλιάς νεσπολιάς, στον αύλειο χώρο του Άη-Θανάση, η Αναστασία Μεταλληνού και ο Σάκης Καρανικόλας μας χάρισαν χθες το βράδυ υπέροχες μελωδίες από το ρεπερτόριο του Μάνου Χατζιδάκι.
Inside the church on another evening there poetry was read
«Η τέχνη είναι ένα μέσο να συγκινεί κανείς το μεγαλύτερο αριθμό ανθρώπων, με το να τους προσφέρει μια προνομιακή εικόνα των κοινών πόνων και ευχαριστίσεων» (Albert Camus – «Ο Λογοτέχνης και η εποχή του»).
Έτσι λοιπόν, απόψε, στην εκκλησία του Αγίου Αθανασίου, σε μιαν ατμοσφαιρική αύρα, οι εκλεκτοί προσκεκλημένοι Δημοσθένης Δαββέτας, Δημήτρης Κονιδάρης, Μαρία Πρεντουλή, Σωτήρης Τριβιζάς, Νάσος Μαρτίνος και ιερ. Βαλέριος, μας μίλησαν για «ποίηση», αποδίδοντας το διπλό της χαρακτήρα, του «εμπνευσμένου» και του «σοφού». Η αιώνια και δραστήρια φιλοσοφία της σκέψης, αντιθετικές σχέσεις με την υποκειμενική φύση, μια εξαιρετική δύναμη αφαίρεσης και ανάλυσης. Η βραδυά «έκλεισε» με την ανάγνωση ποιήματος του Δημοσθένη Δαββέτα και με την υπόσχεση της συνέχειας…
Poetry evening in St Athanasios, Ano Korakiana

(My hopeless translation)...So, an atmospheric night in the church of St. Athanasius, the distinguished guests Demosthenes Davvetas, Dimitris Konidaris, Maria Prentouli, Sotiris Trivizas, Nasos Martin and rep. Valerios, we talked about 'poetry', debating the dual character of the 'inspirational' and the 'wise'; the eternal and dynamic philosophy of thought, contrasting relationships with subjective nature, a fine celebration of strength and resolution.  The evening 'closed' with the reading of a poem by Demosthenes Davvetas and the promise of a return in the future...

On 11th August Ano Korakiana's orchestra marched in the annual procession celebrating Saint Spyridon  Ἅγιος Σπυρίδων - Corfu's patron saint.
11 Aυγούστου σήμερα και η πόλη της  Κέρκυρας θα φορέσει τα γιορτινά της για τη λιτάνευση του Ιερού σκηνώματος του Αγίου Σ πυρίδωνα, σε ανάμνηση της σωτηρίας του νησιού απο τους Τούρκους το 1716. Ο κόσμος, αρκετός, κερκυραίοι και μη, θα κατακλύσει απο νωρίς τους κεντρικούς δρόμους της πόλης απ'όπου θα περάσει η πομπή. Ξεχωριστό χρώμα όπως πάντα θα δώσουν οι φιλαρμονικές, 8 στο σύνολο, αναμεσα τους και η δική μας αποτελούμενηη απο 60 μουσικούς, οι οποίες θα συνοδεύσουν το σκήνωμα με αρχή και τέλος της διαδρομής, την εκκλησία του Αγίου...
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Francis Niemczyk has at last completed the second exercise in synchronising one of the hundreds of episodes of Out of Town from my archive. It arrived a few days ago - as a Digibeta tape, a DVD of sound, a DVD of film, and the one I could view and hear, a DVD of sound and image synchronised. Of course the film of Jack in the studio, as we know, is missing. The challenge is finding ways of having more than a dark space over his introduction. Ever helpful, Ian Wegg has suggested this, adding the theme tune and introductory titles. He moves from a fuzzy image of my stepfather in his shed at Raven Cottage in Dorset. This fades into black and white with greater clarity -  a picture of Jack with recovered film boxes on shelves, that dissolves into colour ribbon titles dissolving into Stan's location film...

Ian has edited out some of the talk that referred to an unidentified object. I like what he's done. Being able to sustain chat about this project among several hundred people on Facebook is encouraging and useful.
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Συγχωριανού μας Σάïμον Μπάντλεϊ  2012 (Αυτός είμαι εγώ με το μπαστούνι)

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Simon Baddeley