Monday, 1 September 2014

'...the wiry edge of our fretfulness...'


For the last two years I've attached myself to 'The Birmingham 1000 Elders group' linked to Prof Janet Lord's Centre for Healthy Ageing at the QE Hospital in Birmingham.
...acquiescentia in se ipso...
A few times a year we answer questions following the series of tests - physical and mental - I did at the hospital about two years ago (took three hours) and get tea, coffee cakes and buns in a seminar suite at the new QE Hospital to enjoy Ladybird level lectures on the state of the research and the meaning of our own data for our health.

It's great because it takes me underneath headliners in the media and shows what is known and not known about getting old without becoming over-preoccupied with the likely problems of ageing - loss of immunity to infection, inflammation....
Perhaps the most intriguing finding ~ inflamm-ageing 'associated with'? 'causing'? my immune system to degrade with age

I love research. I'm egotistical enough to be intrigued with how it applies to me. There's also a useful sample of old people - 'elders'  - equally interested.
The role of systemic inflammation and the way statins might or might not help was interesting

It's a good way to stay informed about latest findings about one's health without trying to have the kind of chat with my GP that, these days, would be a recipe for being regarded as a bit of a time waster or even a hypochondriac, meanwhile I'm contributing to medical research. I enjoy the suggestion that collecting street rubbish for Handsworth Helping Hands ...

or digging our allotment is helping to blunt the 'wiry edge of my fretfulness'

*** *** ***
The last Sunday in August is the official end of Summer in Ano Korakiana, the date marked by a service with a meal at Saint Isadora Άη-Σίδερο. This tiny church, inside which you could not swing a cat, sits on a jutting rock on the seventh of the twenty-nine hairpin bend road to Sokraki, the village on Trompetta Ridge above Ano Korakiana. The end point of some of our walks, a lovely way to look down to the village and its surroundings.

Στον Άη-Σίδερο
Γράφει ο/η Κβκ 31.08.14
s_isidoros082014a.jpg
Κυριακή σήμερα, παραμονή του νέου έτους σύμφωνα με την Ίνδικτο («εκκλησιαστικό έτος»), και στο γραφικό εκκλησάκι του Αγίου Ισιδώρου πραγματοποιήθηκε η Λειτουργία και ακολούθως η αφιερωμένη σε (τοπικό) θαύμα του Αγίου, Λιτανεία. Ιδιαιτέρως πολύς ο κόσμος που συνέρρευσε, κυρίως από την Άνω Κορακιάνα και το γειτονικό Σωκράκι για να παρακολουθήσει την υπαίθρια ιερή τελετή στην επιβλητική  σκιά του πεύκου, με την παρουσία τριών ιερέων.
s_isidoros082014b.jpg

Μετά τη Λειρουγία η εικόνα του Αγίου θα λιτανευθεί έως τη Δεξαμενή, όπου θα λάβει χώρα σχετική παράκληση και η πομπή θα επιστρέψει στη μικρή εκκλησία. Εκεί, στους στρωμένους πάγκους θα απλωθούν σπιτικά γλυκίσματα, που με τη συνοδεία καφέ θα προσθέσουν μιαν ευχάριστη ανάσα στους επιτελούντες, αλλά και στον κόσμο που θα παραμείνει μέχρι τέλους.
Χθες εξάλλου, τηρήθηκε και το έθιμο της φανουρόπιτας.

Η εορτή σηματοδότησε τυπικά και το τέλος του φετινού καλοκαιριού…
The last time we were in Ano Korakiana during August was 2009. We walked up to Ag.Isadorus on the last Sunday of the month....
Sunday morning we rose earlier and walked through the village while it was cool, heading upwards through the narrows of little Venice. As we approached the seventh bend on the Sokraki road we heard chanting and so came to St Isidoras and to the door of the little church where a narrow mezzanine hangs over the road and we could lean on the sturdy spinach green railings for an hour as people of all ages came, lit candles, made the sign of the triple cross, bustled about the chapel, kissed the pictures of the saints – Isidoras and Fanarios. After the service the priests led a procession a little further up the hill to the boundary of Ano Korakiana and back. Tables and chairs were placed in the little square beside the church, invisible from the road, and cakes and coffee and sweet-bread were passed around. A large man beckoned us to sit at the table. Places were made for us; plates brought. Another man who’s face I’d often seen at events in the village fetched us delicious custard pastries. “These are in honour of Saint Fanarios whose day was three days ago.” “Your name is kirios...?” I asked “I am Mr Savvanis...gradually we are becoming friends." [Liana's translation from the village website tells me that Savannis is a name associated with Ano Korakiana since 1473, and I think I was speaking with Dr. Spiros Savannis, a paediatrician. Later note: Ano Korakiana's President living on the Platea, sitting centre left to the right of Pappas in the B & W picture]
End of summer ~ a dead Hairy Dragonfly corpse on our dewed lawn



*** *** ***
I have, after work with mattock, stones, recovered wood, the rake, maul and earth thumper, remade the central path through the allotment. From this I will run more tributary paths - straight and curved.
The widened path on Plot 14
It's clear now, as it wasn't when I first rented an allotment in June 2012, that wherever I dig to plant or crop I need a path on one, or both sides, of the growing space. This avoids my tread compressing the soil where I'm planting. A path lets me move around the plot to dig, sow, plant, inspect, weed, and harvest. Some people's paths are made up of regularly cut grass. They look good but having started with these I find them tricky to keep mown. They're too narrow to scythe. I don't want to rely on a small strimmer. Uncut grass paths become weed spreaders, as couch roots reach out into the soil beside the path. My rather intractable ground becomes so easily compressed and difficult to work. So I'll take advantage of that problem by preparing lots of regularly trodden paths. Vanley's intertwining paths on his plot are now firmly compressed flat earth - almost weedless. I'm not using carpets - unwieldy at best - to mark these out. I have a collection of recovered industrial carpet tiles; easily picked up and put down, stored and re-laid. They help suppress weed. I may, on busy paths, be able to just take up these tiles to use on other parts of the plot. I've also invested in a 100 x 2 metre roll of heavy duty 'landscape membrane' so that over the next two months Winnie can go on digging the spaces between the new paths, harassing and removing weeds, while adding the membrane for further suppression. We will exercise the strictest of immigration policies to prevent incursion of foreign weed from the derelict plots on either side of Plot 14.

I've bought a most useful new tool - a long handled digging fork, sometimes called an Irish fork, a wood handle 58" (147 cms) long - not sold in garden centres. I've transferred part of Lin's flower beds that marked the top margin of the plot; removed the the one on the right of the new centre path making a flat parking space next to the site road delivery and storing of topsoil, compost and manure.
The bottom end of Plot 14 is turning into a wilderness around the beehive, protected by the shed, the steel fence between the allotments and the park and a fast expanding briar patch that would have been perfect for Brer Rabbit's plan of escape. Oliver and I have been taking our pick of the ripe blackberries on it; feeling them for a moment before plucking to check readiness for eating. Oliver's mouth is lined with purple when we get home..

 *** *** ***
The news from Rotherham about the prostituting of young women is dire...last week saw the publication of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997-2013) by Alexis Jay...from the first paragraphs of the reports exec summary
No one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1400 children were sexually exploited over the full Inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013.
In just over a third of cases, children affected by sexual exploitation were previously known to services because of child protection and neglect. It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated. There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone. Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators.
This abuse is not confined to the past but continues to this day.

The 1999 book Child Sexual Abuse in Victorian England by Louise A. Jackson is the first detailed investigation of the way that child abuse was discovered, debated, diagnosed and dealt with in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. This matter of the 'grooming', sexual abuse of minors - young men and women - has a long toxic history. Amid the current news from Rotherham about ‘grooming’ – with its current black on white amplification – it might be easy to forget the recurrence of a series of scandals associated with paid access by older men, some in public positions of responsibility, to children’s homes for sex. Recall 'The Kincora Boys' Home' in Northern Ireland, scene of a notorious child sex abuse scandal; the 'North Wales child abuse scandal' involving over a dozen children’s homes being used similarly. The 'grooming' was done by institutionalising vulnerable children. Instead of 'grooming' direct as in Rotherham and elsewhere, certain staff in these children's homes performed 'grooming' in-house, pimping the ‘service’ to a network of contacts. Recently I've heard of the The Elm Guest House child abuse scandal where we have yet to see the start of an enquiry into allegations that prominent British men, including former government ministers, senior MPs, top police officers and people with connection to the royal household attended parties during the 70s and 80s. There’s also the 1996 U.N. study of The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children by Graça Machel documenting how the arrival of peacekeeping troops has been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution in areas of conflict, and in 2004 Gita Sahgal reported prostitution and sex abuse wherever humanitarian intervention efforts are set up.
I'm not trying to dilute the horribleness of what I am reading about what has been uncovered - at last - in Rotherham, just trying to point out that if we truly believe in racial equality there are no ethnic groups that are better or worse than any others when it comes to being vile to the young and the vulnerable. The defining of sexual abuse as an evil seems to be about where civil rights was in the 1960s. There are many examples of it being viewed as 'normal' behaviour; something taken for granted. Christ. seldom intemperate, was enraged by two things - hypocrisy ("Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."..."ὑποκριτά, ἔκβαλε πρῶτον τὴν δοκὸν ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σοῦ, καὶ τότε διαβλέψεις ἐκβαλεῖν τὸ κάρφος ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου") and hurting children - "whoso shall offend one of these little ones it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." "Ὃς δ’ ἂν σκανδαλίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων τῶν πιστευόντων εἰς ἐμέ, συμφέρει αὐτῷ ἵνα κρεμασθῇ μύλος ὀνικὸς εἰς τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ καταποντισθῇ ἐν τῷ πελάγει τῆς θαλάσσης.

If I ask myself about the source of my vehement spitting rage at this behaviour, I would have to recount the experience I had of being sent to a boarding school called Lindfield in a place called Hyde End House near Brimpton in Berkshire when I was 6 years old, along with my sister Bay, who was 5.
Hyde End House in the 1940s - as I remember the place


























A post from Xx on the Francis Frith website in July 2010:

Lindfield School, Hyde End House, Brimpton.
I would love to hear from anyone who has memories of Lindfield School, Hyde End House, Brimpton.
I was there from when I was six until I was eight, between 1947 - 1949, and have many recollections of the place - some good: the beautiful grounds, the old kitchen garden, topping & tailing the gooseberries, wonderful summer outings to a local stream, where we swam, paddled, & splashed to our hearts content: some not so good: trying to understand the finer points of long division! And some horrendous: the cane was much in evidence, especially for the boys.
Does anyone remember the headmaster, Mr Hart? There was also a Mr Bellamy and a Miss Dunlop, both teachers, and someone called Steve who brought the milk, in churns, from the farm.
Some of the pupils I recall are: ...(list of names)
I loved the Ovaltine tablets sold at Mullins, the village shop - so much nicer than the sweets we were given as prizes on Sports Day - which looked like delicious jellies but turned out to be VERY hot crystallised ginger!
We were marched over the fields to St Peter's church every Sunday and some of us ended up in the most terrible trouble for eating the farmer's strawberries - almost a hanging offence!
Apparently, the schoool transferred to a different location at some point, and became Slindon College*, still in existence.
It's all a long time ago but the memories are still very vivid. 
Tue Sep 2nd, at 2:01 pm
simon commented:
'Vivid' indeed. I have memories of Mr Hart and his colleagues. I went to Lindfield School from age 6, with my sister Bay aged 5, from 1947-1949. I was never myself caned, just beaten a few times with a slipper, but I saw vicious canings, that left the small child who watched these punishments horrified for quite a long time. Lindfield was a vile place and the official bullying, especially of boarders, by some staff was a crime which today would have involved some of them being sent to prison. My mother had just divorced, was working in Fleet Street and desperately needed to earn her living. All her life she regretted sending us to that 'horrible place'. The current child sex abuse scandals resonate for me as being far worse, but I learned where this kind of thing starts in closed institutions and how people, when you told them about it, didn't believe you. I and my sister were 'rescued' from Lindfield (because my stepfather Jack Hargreaves, just arrived in my mum's life, did believe me and guessed what was going on). I and my sister went on to fine schools, and have had happy successful lives. After boarding at a place called Ashfold, I went on to Westminster and Cambridge and although I still think of Lindfield now and then, I'm well recovered from that very unpleasant two years in the clutches of the charming Mr.Hart and his crew.
Dear X. I have posted a memory of Lindfield on the Francis Frith site. I'm so sorry that my comments are grim ones but I and my sister, as almost toddlers, had bad experiences at Hyde End House. I guess we must have been there at the same time as you. It's a long time ago but I still get memory flashes about the place - such a beautiful house - and of the surface charm of Mr Hart (ironic name). I'm a retired academic from Birmingham University, married with two grandchildren, one just born. I've had a good life and count myself fortunate that the only intimate encounter I've had with evil was at Lindfield - and that was nothing to the stories of abuse we now read about in the media. I do not regard the the fact of caning being normal in those days as an excuse. The caning I was aware of at other schools existed in the 1940s but in a far rarer and milder form. Hart was a man - sadly there are too many like him - who relished humiliating those in his care. Kindest regards, Simon Baddeley
 * My note: Slindon College was indeed originally called Lindfield School; started in Westbourne in 1946 before moving to Slindon House in 1956, and nothing whatsoever to do with 'my' Lindfield School near Brimpton which, I learned, many years later closed down for good not long after I left. 
2 Sept: Dear Simon Baddeley, Many thanks for your message sent through the Francis Frith website. I was very interested to read your comments re the ghastly and loathsome Lindfield school - although, did you know that Mr Hart started the place with seemingly altruistic intentions? Shades of A.S.Neill's Summerhill, no less; a multicultural, co-ed boarding school was extremely unusual in those days: whatever happened? Was he ill? Depressingly, the few people with whom I've had contact seem to have accepted the sadistic regime as normal - 'It's as it was in those days, lots of children were given the cane.' etc., etc. Do you remember Mrs Hart? Fox stoles, various, immaculate curls and singing around the piano, but at least she wasn't violent, and learning the words of 'London Pride' seems relatively harmless, although am not so sure about 'Rule Britannia' and 'The British Grenadiers'! There is so little known about the place and the snippets of information I've gleaned are very few. I managed a chat with ...Mr Hart's daughter, a few years ago. She did a lot of referring to darling mummy and daddy and was more interested in telling me about her esteemed forebears, one of whom was Wilberforce, (presumably not the Hart side of the family), than discussing the finer details of her father's rages. She said she'd be in touch about a reunion at Slindon College but I didn't hear any more from her and when I contacted the school they didn't know what I was talking about! I wish I'd contacted her father during his lifetime but he died in 1986 so too late now. Do you remember any of the names I posted on the FF site? I am in touch with Xxx who, like me, went there when he was six years old, far too early to be sent away anywhere, let alone to such a hellhole. I have just inadvertently deleted forever the 'Hart' file that I was going to forward you! Hell's bells and damnation - dementia rules! I shall send an SOS to Paul; he might still have the details on his PC. Did you know that Mr H was tried, and found guilty, for assaulting one of his staff at some point in his career? There must be old newspaper reports somewhere? Also, many years ago, there was a BBC documentary about corporal punishment and his name cropped up but I didn't see the broadcast. Someone in Paul's family has a tape of the programme but he hasn't had any success in tracking it down. Yes, we are now hearing about far more horrendous happenings but at least, and at long last, the tide is turning. The abuse of children, in whatever degree, is not only tragic for the individual but for society as a whole; I feel that all the world's problems, from petty theft to large scale wars, stem from the appalling way we have treated our children over the centuries: a sweeping statement but how can it be otherwise? Thanks for being in touch. With all best wishes, X
Dear X. I'm delighted to hear from you. I have assumed that our exchange is in the public domain and so have taken the liberty of posting what we've both written on my blog ...We were little ones at Lindfield. I am fascinated with the extra information you've told me, amazed at how much we children did not know or, if we had known, understood. That is what is so vile about grown-ups taking advantage of the innocence, the almost divine stupidity and foolishness, of children. I'm afraid I've little time for Hart's vision of a Summerhill school. Far from being some sad exculpation (tho' you may disagree) I think the man was skilled in subterfuge. I still recall the egregious charm he exuded in saying goodbye to me and my stepfather when the latter arrived unannounced and drove me away from Hyde End. I escaped once, of my own volition (after my sister had been taken from the school earlier than me). I hardly got further than the edge of Brimpton when Mrs Hart in her car caught me and brought me back. I expected to be severely punished but everyone was oddly nice about my action. I think this was part of the duplicity that ensured Hart's sadism was kept as secret as possible. I did some research into the school about 25 years ago and was able to contact someone who'd been at Lindfield with me. His family farmed near the school. We exchanged memories. He said "Oh yes, Hart only beat the boarders'. I don't know how true that was but it seems all too likely. I have a variety of other memories of Lindfield and I'm sure you do. I was told during a brief period of therapy in the 1980s that the best way to deal with the effects of child abuse is to forget the abuser. I haven't forgotten Hart but he is pretty far beyond those parts of my memory which resonate with childhood experiences. It also helped that my parents full acknowledged the ill-judged decision that sent me and my sister to Lindfield. Even the best can make mistakes and we had, with that exception, the happiest of childhoods, which ironically marks that short spell of misery more obviously than if I had been truly abandoned and long abused. This was very much not the case; to the extent that I can treat the Lindfield episode as a sort of vaccination against evil. I was as it were given a tiny taste of the dreadful things that adults can visit upon children. It taught me the truth of your observation that cruelty to children,'in whatever degree, is not only tragic for the individual but for society as a whole...(so that) all the world's problems, from petty theft to large scale wars, stem from the appalling way we have treated our children over the centuries: a sweeping statement but how can it be otherwise?" I strive to be a Christian in ethics if not in faith. I share Christ's rage (a rare emotion in him) when he said that anyone who harms "these little ones, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

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