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Tuesday, 26 August 2014


As expected the house continues to be full of family. The building work on Amy's and Guy's home is taking longer, going slower than the builder's given dates.
Our kitchen, August 2014

Oscar shares dog space with Cookie, the dopiest of bitches, with an irritatingly chirpy bark cued with every doorbell and knock on the door or key turn. Oscar happily joins in. Our waste disposal - for bins and recycling - is increased by a third; soft drink cans, nappies, tissues and more paper and cardboard. Nippled bottles and baby cups and plastic plates and bowls adds to the washing up. Baby and toddler clothes add to the laundry. By and large I enjoy this; now and then suspecting that these days will in retrospect come close to a period of special happiness.
I helped Amy refitting their bedroom wardrobe the other day, baby-sitting the while

*** *** ***
I have hung the hefty gate on the side of our house, the way into the narrow alley between houses on our road. It required three large galvanised T-hinges, two dozen sturdy brass screws, and much propping and awkward lifting into place. After that came a new thumb latch, with a hole drilled for the lifter, and several minutes fiddling the alignment. The gate nearly shut. I used the sander on the angle grinder to widen the gate post near the top of the door. Ideally I should have removed the whole post and copied the plentiful guidance available on the web.

As it is I left the old post in place, dug out a thin strip of wood to fill the widening gap caused by the hung door's slight angle. To right this I imagined I would have had to adjust a gate post that's still sound - a firm base for the long screws that hold the hinges to it - and deeply embedded in the boundary between mine and my neighbour's house.
A craftsman would have seen this problem from the start and found a way - perhaps using packing behind the T of the lower hinge - to hang the gate perpendicularly, so its opening edge aligned with the other post - an investment in time and energy that would have saved fiddlefaddling. I shall seek to disguise this with filler and paint, but I know what I did. Explaining myself to Lin who saw the gate once it closed smoothly I made the familiar excuse.
"The trouble with my do-it-yourself work is that I'm almost always doing a job for the first time - and the only time. There's not enough opportunity for learning. If I hung this gate again of course I'd do it differently"
I recalled that when we had built our wardrobe and drawers in Ano Korakiana, Martin, staying with us, had made up for our inexperience, with a wealth of tips on hanging the doors for a wardrobe....
In Corfu Martin gives advice on hinges and how to hang the doors of our wardrobe
Nearly completed and the doors hang perfectly

...and Linda is better than me at setting up a job. It's done now - more or less. I've gone on to complete the tidying up and painting of the garage doors.
New gate hung; garage doors scraped and sanded before painting

The problem now - replacing three of the leaded glass panes in the right hand door, plus small filling jobs to be done.
On the allotment this Sunday. Vanley called me over...
Christine, Vanley, Oscar on the Victoria Jubilee ~ wet paint from our garage door on Oscar''s shoulder I cycled by. He showed me his 'new' shed; rather more a shack...
Karen adds finishing touches to the roof of Vanley's shack fact a work of art, by Karen Mc Lean, who was on its corrugated iron roof. putting final touches to its reassembly from Eastside, by the city centre. My Richard had visited a few days earlier and told me the shack was going up, but I'd forgotten. Christine was cooking. Vanley offered a bottle of cool Red Stripe and a delicious meal - a peppery burger and corn, salad and a baked spud...He split and buttered the potato, adding a chunk of bread.

...We sat and ate.
"I enjoy this" he said "I may sleep in the shed"
I'm unsure how I'd differentiate a shed from a shack or a hut, but this was in a different style from other constructions on the Victoria Jubilee. It had been on show at Edible Eastside in 2012. I was entranced by it, as I am both envious and respectful of Vanley's seemingly effortless success in growing vegetables and flowers on his plot.
Post Colonial-Now by Karen Mc Lean - the one she's rebuilt on Vanley's allotment (© courtesy of the artist)

Karen said she was worried about the roof.
"I'm coming over tomorrow to see if the rain comes in"
Yesterday Guy observed, first thing, "You can tell it's Bank Holiday"
Outside was overcast, raining as Karen expected. Indeed well set in for the day. Wind blowing up the leaves of the high trees among the gardens. I said that I'd walk Oliver over to the allotments - hardly 10 minutes away. We kitted up with waterproofs and set out with Oliver holding Oscar's lead, noting things like drains, and walls and lamp-posts on the way. All things can be made interesting to a child and his pleasure in peering down a dribbling street drain is equal only to my delight in the moment of recovered innocence, seeing the most ordinary things for the first time.
TROVE invited artist Karen Mc Lean to reassemble her shack piece, Post Colonial – Now, at Edible Eastside, and decorate their mac birmingham ALLOTMENT plot with her hand made wall paper (© courtesy of the artist)

(© courtesy of the artist)

**** ****
Lamp-posts on our route ring with a tap from my ringed finger. There might be someone living in the thin cable cabinets on nearly every street. We knock and ask of course, and tap on the pavement manhole covers to wake those below. Once through the heavy squeaking iron gate into the allotments I let Oscar and Oliver off their leads. We stroll towards Plot 14, stopping to check the magic shack.
Oliver with Karen's shack on the Victoria Jubilee ~ August 2014

Dear Karen. It was good to meet you y’day. In case you didn’t get over to the allotments today, I visited your handiwork on Vanley’s plot with my grandson and can assure you the roof is not leaking. Just some wet driven through the doorway - which Oliver and I trailed in more, inspecting inside. Best wishes, Simon 
Hi Simon. Thank you for your email, neither Vanley nor myself were able to get down to the allotment yesterday and I have been a bit worried, so it's good to know that all is well. I had visions of the plastic being filled with water sagging on the inside! It was also good to meet you, Oscar and your son Richard. There is such a wonderful community spirit that breaks down all the social hierarchies on the allotment! I am enjoying being there and observing. Hope to see you soon. Much Thanks. Karen
...and Danny, on a plot next to Vanley, and a member of the VJAS Committee wrote to me:
Hello Simon. Thanks for sharing the link to your blog. This shack has arrived in our lives  and raises new thoughts, feelings and discussions all the time. Living next door to it, I'm privileged to be party to most of them. Sitting graciously on the allotment it is now experiencing it's own liberation and is beginning its freedom where it should be, at the heart of community, and lush vegetation. It's adapting to the British weather and putting on a Mac and shoes much as anyone coming from warmer climates. Free at last...
to which she added a second later...
Sorry Simon, that galloped off into the ether sooner than intended! I hadn't read or revised what I wrote. It's a funny thing, the shack. I love it but I can see why it's been so unsettling for some. But I may be imagining it, but I can hear it settling it's bones into its boots and breathing a sigh of relief. When the sun's out, it's ready for company and activity. Good luck to Karen if she thinks it will want to move again!
Thanks for your kind wishes. It's good to see your 2 homes in your blog. I think I have 2, and my second is the allotment!
All the best to you both
It hadn't occurred to me that Karen's work might be 'unsettling for some'. I find it enticing, magical and friendly. t'm delighted with my shed. I wonder what it says about me, my class, my ethnicity, my history.
'Αυτό δεν είναι μια αποθήκη' ~ our shed in Summer
On that matter the child's eye can cast no light. You have to delve and conjecture and think with a mix of sophistication and innocence. Is Karen Mc Lean's shack still art on the VJA? Would mine be, if placed in a space at Edible Eastside? Ha ha. This was my account in 2004 -  using Luke Unsworth's photos - of the old Victoria Jubilee Allotments, the private ones that were surrendered to the bulldozer for profit.

Here was a displacement; a veritable destruction of place. Could it be that Vanley and his friends are at the heart of a reconstruction and replacement on the Victoria Jubilee? As we ate I shared some of my memories of the campaign to prevent building on the whole site, to lay out the largest public allotments in the UK since WW2.
It's a pleasing serendipity I encounter Post Colonial-now with its damp-spotted and fragmented Houses of Parliament Pugin wallpaper - subverted to show the bust of a bound slave -
Karen Mc Lean's wallpaper - photographed inside the shack on Vanley's plot ((© shown with permission of the artist) shortly after Richard Pine publishes The Disappointed Bridge: Ireland and the Post-Colonial World.  It reminds me - on the matter of what is art - that provenance is so important. Objects are not so easily found. Karen's been exploring this subject a long time and has work to show it.
'Shacks, chattel houses or huts' (© courtesy of the artist)

'They are putting up my flat at the Ikon Gallery" said Vanley in his quiet way as we ate together. I misheard.
"Your allotment?"
He corrected me but the fact is you could do just that,.as they do every year at Chelsea, and it would be superb. His flat I don't know, but someone has seen that there people who make everything and anything into art. It's mysterious to me why, and a source of much ribaldry or quiet amusement if you don't want to see it that way, and why not? It's this ambiguity that slips treason past the gaze of  the beastly tyrant's henchmen. Ha ha! The treachery of images.

Monday's rain fell steadily. Before going onto the allotments, Oliver and I visited the new children's play area given with the S106A on the VJA and at last completed at the end of a cul-de-sac at south end of Parklands Avenue adjoining the new building site on what was a bowling green. I quite like the space; not full of play equipment, more a mini-park with a stone circle, picnic areas with upturned logs, steps and faux bridge and interesting slopes.

Children's park at the top of Parklands Avenue
Someone asked me later if Oliver enjoyed this place. I think he enjoys anywherewe go. He'd be happy in the middle of a busy roundabout. It's parents who like places like this. They feel safe to let a child roam while having a pleasant place to sit.
Strolling on to Plot 14 we sheltered briefly under the shed veranda while I made myself a mug of tea.

Oliver, immune to rain, played keenly with the trickle of water that, via my new shed guttering, trickled into a bucket from the overflow pipe of one of my water butts, while I set to with mattock and fork to widen the main path through the allotment as part of my plan to improve its network of paths...
...I've decided, having learned from others, that many paths between growing spaces, straight or curved, are essential, since the worked earth won't tolerate being walked on before becoming unworkably packed. Before we left we harvested a bag of runner beans

Homeward in the wet

It's August, high-summer but always a rainy month in my experience. I changed; Oscar suffered a good towelling and Oliver was stripped of wet clothes.
"You were going to bring those beans yesterday" said Lin "Tonight we're having a take-away"
It was good - from Shazanz on the Lozells Road.
** ** ** **
Our neighbour, Jack, came round to explain how he could repair our central heating boiler...

...The thermostat's broken. The water overheats, overflows from the header. leaks onto the landing carpet into a plastic bowl, making a thunderous noise as a warning. We've been heating the water for 15 minutes then turning the boiler off before it overheats. That won't do in winter when we want more heating from our radiators. We could have a new boiler but our old system couldn't cope with a combi. We could have a new condensing boiler with a variety of feedback devices to increase economy "It's the way it is these days" said Jack; or we could find the right part to replace on ebay or direct from Potterton. I checked the part number on the 1986 instruction manual I dug out of the file and then googled the part number and up came 'Potterton Kingfisher 40-150 CF & RS Boiler Thermostat 404456 Ranco CL6-P0100'. I contacted eBay the supplier who emailed me back almost at once and also with Potterton-Baxi in Warwick who came back on Tuesday as we were at the kitchen table.
Good Afternoon. Thank you for your recent contact in regards to the Kingfisher 100 boiler. The part code you have provided is the correct one for your boiler. I hope this helps please email back if you have any other questions. Kind regards. Tom @ Baxi Genuine Parts
The part should arrive tomorrow - just under £35. Jack will fit it. Fingers crossed. Amy slept late to make up for staying up late...
Amy, Hannah, Linda and the top of Oliver's head

*** *** ***
Last week I got a Skype invite to London to spend an afternoon with a friend since University, joined by someone with whom I'd been at school and university; Mark - he, a scholar to my dunce. It was exciting, lovely, and very entertaining. I can worry about nostalgia - especially when at 72 I've got so much more past than future.  Not so. We used our septuagenerity. We shared stuff over a delicious easy meal with chilly white wine and Prosecco. Miriam's the same on both sides of the looking glass - her gifted public persona indiscernible from her private. This is the same with all the talents I know. They are just like ordinary people - yet different - most of all because what they do seems done without effort
Miriam in Clapham

Also with us was an American relative I'd not met. He grew on me as our meal proceeded. Almost diffident - an American in Europe - he needed gently encouragement to say more about himself. A lot younger than us, he listened to us sharing things that must surely have been outside his ken.
"You know that the sub-text of every conversation between the English is class" said Miriam as we reminisced about Westminster and Cambridge.
We discussed homes, relationships, off-spring and then, Gaza - a war between victims. Mark spoke of how some people, becoming more and more publicly successful, become more and more incapable of being truthful, even as their sincerity increases. Mark was as fast as he was fifty years ago; too polite to correct my mistakes or rebut where he disagreed, but, allowing small unintended pauses for me to glimpse familiar inadequacies. This was how it always was. I took the opportunity to speak of Aristeidis Metallinos and show some pictures of his work.
"Have someone at Sothebys look over those pictures" suggested Mark "It's not about buying or selling. They can be genuinely helpful, Find their sculptor person."
We reflected on growing old and incapable, "going into that darkness" M put it.
Talking about death or worse 'dying', even skirting around it is quite as tricky as talking about sex across generations. Miriam's often very funny on that, but her genius for ribaldry doesn't reach here. It's not funny. 'Most things may never happen: this one will' so I imagine how I or she or any of us might 'fumble with the sheets and play with flowers and smile upon (their) fingers' ends'.
It was an easy cycle home, first across the river over Battersea Bridge - a low tide, mud on either bank; up busy Sloane Street, through Knightsbridge and into Hyde Park, far too full of the new cycling commuters, then up through Marylebone to my favourite station and a crowded Chiltern train to Moor Street, where the platforms were cold and dark. By the time I reached the Hockley flyover, drizzle was shining the road and pavements, seeping into my summer clothes.  
Name: Sotheby's
Email:  A friend has suggested someone at Sotheby's might assist me in my research into a laic sculptor, an artisan who took up carving stone and marble in the last 12 years of his life; someone almost unknown outside the village where he was born, lived and died. I have created a Wikipedia article for Aristeidis Metallinos. You must have a million enquiries like this, but I wonder if someone who knows far more about sculpture than I could meet me for 15-20 minutes to look at some pictures of this man's work and express an opinion. To the best of knowledge and certainly mine there is no interest in seeking a market for this work. The sculptor's will has been explicit that his work is a gift to his village and must not be divided. I seek an opinion on this man's work and will understand if there simply isn't the time to arrange this. I live in Birmingham and Greece and regularly make the journey to London. My gratitude for your possible interest and attention.
Dear Mr Baddeley. Thank you for contacting Sotheby’s. Your email request has been forwarded to our European Sculpture Department in London, who will respond to you directly. In the meantime should you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact our Client Care Team. Yours sincerely, Vickie Wilkinson, Sotheby's Client Care
I've also had a letter from Alexandra Moschovi, who I visited a few weeks ago in Newcastle, to pick her brain on the laic sculptor. I will need to go into it in detail. She points me towards events in Greece when Aristeidis Metallinos Αριστείδης Μεταλληνός, was working on an especially large number of carvings. She gives me links to Greek films of the day - many with content that would have been censored a decade earlier - referring me to a spectacular scandal; the basis of a play and subsequent film The Saint of Preveza, Ο Άγιος Πρεβέζης, whose author, Spyros Karatzapherēs Σπύρος Καρατζαφέρης, was regularly in the dock with the film's director, Dimitris Kollatos...

... over his account of the sexual escapades and corrupt business deals of Metropolitan Stylianos Kornaros Στυλιανός Κορνάρος, revealed in 1978.
Toledo Blade, 5 Sept 1978
Preveza is on the mainland less than 90 miles south east of Corfu. One may imagine the impact of such revelations hardly four years after the end of the Junta. Alexandra reminded me that habits of shared self-censorship continued across Greek society into the 1980s, probably even stronger in smaller communities.
The Saint of Preveza 1982: Spyros Karatzapherēs (author of the non-fiction novel on the scandal): "I'm waiting for you, I'm ready. Nude my darling ready, I'm going to f**k you" ~ Aristeidis Metallinos (Cat.189)

Alexandra also points me towards a law that might help me understand other things that happened in Ano Korakiana during the artist's life...'
...the law that was introduced in Greece in the 1980s on building permissions...
Ρυθμίσεις αυθαιρέτων και αδειών δόμησης (building permits) ... Ν.1481/1984 (ΦΕΚ-Α-152/1984) ΟΡΓΑΝΙΣΜΟΣ ΥΠΟΥΡΓΕΙΟΥ ΔΗΜΟΣΙΑΣ ΤΑΞΗΣ. Unfortunately, I suspect it will only be in Greek.
I will look into that and seek help from Aleko who has translated for me before. What I need is a lay interpretation of this law and how it could be applied.

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Simon Baddeley