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Friday, 31 October 2014

Late October in the village

Dawn over the mainland - an October morning in Ano Korakiana

As the time to leave the village and return to the distant city grows closer I find myself playing down here; playing up there. It’s the same for those long departed swallows. As they assembled on village power lines beside their fledglings, emptied nests growing stale under tiled eaves of a village in Greece, twitching for the flight south; reversing the excitement of Easter’s arrival, fretting for a village in Africa.
 “You’ll like it”
 “Are we there yet?”
I’m balancing regret and anticipation; a slight time vacuum that matches this weather; poised between late summer and gentle autumn; sounds and smells evoking life as a planet in a universe of parents, their story my sun, sensations and images evoked by wood smoke, slight chill, misty evenings, lit windows into glimpsed interiors; the quiet of this village strewn along a mile of mountainside with its wide precise focus on the scrubbed mainland hills of Epirus. Here is a warmed space in which to be absorbed uninterrupted by clues to the present; so the click of burning wood in the stove is both now, and long ago, a reminder to feed the fire. I roam in time, occupied by beloved presences long gone from the earth, places past, still ineffaceable. So will we be for our children I hope - an indelible frieze. I’ve been employing my imagination on the recovery of Rock Cottage, assisted by Martin’s regularly forwarded pictures from Gloucestershire. He and Sandra and Adam have been travelling down to the Forest of Dean at weekends from their home near Worcester - equipped with first aid for our first second home, plus Jack and other helpers – ‘Team Ward’ Martin calls them. I’m nearly ready to imagine us being able to stay again in the Forest of Dean – but there’s tiling, painting, carpeting yet, and the hope that the problem of upstairs damp will be solved, by adding gutters, burning logs, clearing drains, living there…
Hi Simon. Paul examined the heating system today, re-filled and charged the system, and got it all up-and-running. The boiler has withstood the ravages of time and lack of use quite well. There is only one issue and this is some corrosion on the diverter valve and pipework.
He estimates the boiler is ten years old, and has a lifespan of 15 years. He estimates this corrosion will last the life of the boiler, and messing about with it at this stage in its life would only cause more problems.
I have been discussing the damp problems with Paul, and he has had similar problems with a cottage in Wales. After many surveys and so-call expert advice - most of the problems turned out to be condensation. I note the new windows have no trickle vents, and other than the chimney flue upstairs - there is no ventilation at all. When we got there this morning, the windows were steamed up on the inside !
I've opened all the windows one tiny gap, and left the heating on for the week, turned down to 15°C - so it will only come on at night. I'll see how it goes for just this week, and note any improvements. Talk more about this when I see you both next. Regards, Martin X
Adam mending the guttering
Sandra on the windows 
Martin's lit the fire to help dry the house ~ 'Team Ward' at work
There’s the allotment, plot 14 on the Victoria Jubilee, from which I’ve pledged these last years, I’ll supply vegetables for our next Christmas lunch. Winnie’s been sending reassuring pictures of well prepared soil, sprouting winter onions…
Plot 14 England (photo: Winnie Hall)

There’s walking and cycling on the canals with dog Oscar, who, while we’ve been away, has been shared between our neighbours and Amy. There’s a host of work to be done on the house in Handsworth; continuing work on the Jack Hargreaves archive sat in that slatternly lock-up on the Tyburn Road; see what Francis in London has done by way of further digitising film and tape, synchronising sound and image. Second day home – Monday after next – I’m giving an evening talk about the history of Handsworth Park to Barr and Aston Local History Society in Great Barr Memorial Hall. And there’ll be seeing the grandchildren again; familiar after an interval of just a fortnight since they were with us in Corfu...
Lin, Hannah, Amy, Oliver at Ipsos

... a fortnight since Guy and I went out on Summer Song; Dave our guardian.
“Let’s go to Lazaretto Λαζαρέτο
“Gouvinon Island”
He was still puzzled.
“Execution Island”
I’m averse to the name. A cloud shadowed the mountains. We motored out of Ipsos into a calm sunlight sea. No chance to sail…
”Unless those two big clouds come together, then we might need Gouvia as a bolt hole” said Dave as we passed close by Cape Kommeno.
But the sun shone on us between them. The island came closer.

We slowed near the old jetty, took a second pass to avoid shallows, and went in nose first, Dave mooring us with a knot shoved into a slot between a pair of rough stones, our bow covered in fenders touching the water. The clouds moved across the sun.

I’d been here a over four years ago, expecting now to see the museum announced in 2007 completed; a place to tell the story behind the walls scarred by the impact of many bullets; serried ranks of crosses a few yards up a slope from the jetty; memorials for young men and women shot during the Civil War - bearing dates between 1947 and 1949.
A Museum of Medical History and National Reconciliation is to be built on the historic islet of Lazaretto, Corfu. The old leprosy hospital, which has been listed for preservation, is set for restoration and the surrounding area will be refurbished and made fully accessible to the public, according to a Corfu Municipality architectural study that has the approval of Deputy Environment Minister Stavros Kaloyiannis.[Long history of Corfu isle honoured with a Museum February 24, 2007]
But someone and something doesn’t want the history yet. Can’t tell it. Won't tell it. The Occupation executions perhaps yes, but not the fratricidal killings that came after. When I was here in May 2009, the new building looked smart, ready to be used for visits, lectures, exhibitions. The older buildings including the old and perfectly shaped small church, were readied for restoration, scaffolding erected, walls being stripped, some re-plastered. Now the whole place lay besmirched with neglect, mossed, mildewed, rusting, streaked with gutter dripping. In a clearing was a large stack of hardened sacks of cement, paper peeled.

“There’s a €1000 of cement gone to waste there” said Dave.
"It could have been stored under cover surely?"
The notice I’d seen before showed the starred Euro-symbol and the amount dedicated to creating this memorial - €314,000
“That’s gone somewhere else” we muttered.
 “There’s some rain” I said, feeling speckles between the pines. Someone had been strimming and lopping recently or all would have been disappearing into the shrubs, saplings and trees decorating the rest of the island. There were also roughly squared boards bearing more names, listed without dates or other identification. We'd been going to sit and eat our sandwiches. Instead we headed back to Summer Song, passing another notice, the only one that speaks a little of what happened here.

“What a great place for a taverna!” said Dave “A proper jetty. You could have a to-and-fro ferryboat from Gouvia”
“Yes. An open air grill. Souvlaki  lamb, pork, kokoretsi, chicken breasts and legs and beer and wine” “It would be a cracker of a place”
"Singing, dancing..."
Remembering. Someone told us an old man they knew saw soldiers with rifles bringing prisoners to the harbour.
“Young men and women from the prison marched to the old port to board a boat to the island. They were shouting and singing as they walked!”
We got back on Summer Song and motored around the island before heading back to Gouvia Bay. Guy had phoned Amy.
“They’ll meet us at the jetty there in an hour”
The clouds passed as we closed the shore by the old Venetian shipyard, tied up beside the caïque moored there and strolled ashore as Lin drove up with Amy, Liz, Sophia, Hannah and Oliver. Dave had brought small life jackets, and fitted one to Oliver.
“We’ll meet you at Ipsos” said Amy.
Liz and Oliver came with us on Summer Song, clambering over the decks of the caïque to board the old yacht.
Summer Song leaving Gouvia Pier (photo: Linda Baddeley)

Oliver with his dad "What's that noise?"
With Oliver aboard the 'Boyhood of Raleigh' flashed in my image nursed in imagination since I was a boy, lived in my youth...the model ship, the arm pointing to the Spanish Main, so so long before I was - with thousands of others who need to know their history - grappling with post-colonialism.

A breeze got up off Kommeno again. For a quiet half hour, before calm returned, we sailed under the foresail, Liz at the helm. Moored again in Ipsos, tidying the boat, turning the handle that pumps grease into the stern gland, I thanked Dave
 “That was such good outing. Your reassurance made it so”
Oliver had spent most of our return journey exploring inside the cabin, observing as we approached Ipsos “Look at the lovely water” A boy's memory of the sea.
Meeting up at the harbour in Ipsos

*** *** ***
The Co-op is gearing up for this winter's olives. On a walk with the family, we dropped in on Sebastiano Metallinos, and his helper Harry, overseeing the oil processing machinery. Sebastiano gave Amy and Liz a tour of the plant from the delivery of olives, twigs and leaves, to the cleaning washing hopper, to the oil tap at the other end
One of the two olive oil centrifuges in the village co-op

Douglas Adams would have used the name of a town, Roget might have a clue for me, and the Germans, a suitable compound adjective to describe the bitter-sweet experience of having the house to ourselves, now Liz, Sophia, Guy, Amy, Oliver and little Hannah have flown back to England. They left - eventually - in wet grey weather, which is always better, except the plane that should have taken them home was struck by lightning somewhere on its approach to Kapodistria. It landed with everyone safe, but sat on the runway effectively unusable, while Easyjet announced they were sending a replacement jet, which would mean everyone waiting in the airport for the rest of the day. (Other travellers fared worse). I was grandpa childminder helping with the children until at last they trooped into security just before nine in the evening and I headed back to Ano Korakiana in the dark.

"I don't see how they can get any compensation" said Lin later, reading the cancellation and delay leaflet everyone had been been given at the airport "It's hardly Easyjet's fault if they get struck by lightning"
“When we get home…”
“Home?” I’m of two minds on this, at least two, thinking of a way to return in January when the internet – outside the popular months for travel - becomes useless and Lin and I rely on local knowledge.
“Do you know anyone who knows about travelling to and from Albania?” I asked Pastor Miltiades at the Lighthouse.
I do”
“Wow! We’d like to go to Dubrovnik, perhaps Split and on to Albania without having to go back to Italy first”
The crow flight from the bottom of Croatia to the top of Albania is hardly 100 kilometres. No coach or ferry is promoted between the countries…
“Not that we can see”
“From Dubrovnik there is a coach or ferry to Durrës. From Durrës - in Greek we call it Dyrrhachion Δυρράχιον - you take a coach to Saranda” said Pastor Militiades
“Right opposite us!”
“From Saranda you take a ferry direct to Corfu. I will give you some places to stay in Albania next Saturday”
So then I’m trying to work out how to get to Dubrovnik for under the ridiculous £1000 price three change 12 hour flights thrown up by flightscanners.
“They’re useless for economy flights in Europe.” says Lin “They’re for cheap tickets to Thailand, Hawaii, Australia…I’ll do some searching on Ryanair, Easyjet, Whizzair
Meantime I’m phoning Viamare in London for their access to winter ferry routes to Croatia from Italy.
Says Alina “Bari-Dubrovnik? Wait a mo’…checks her computer...they start in April”
“Anything in January?”
“Wait a mo’…Ancona-Split. I’ll email details”
Dear Mr Baddeley. Further to our telephone conversation with regards to a ferry crossing from Italy to Croatia or Albania. Please note that I can offer a ferry crossing from Ancona – Split , Jan 2015 however time table is still not available, it should be available in mid/end November 2014. At the moment I can offer: Bari-Durrës – 10 Jan 15 – 23:00 arrives 08:00
2 passengers in seats = €116
2 passengers in 2 bed inside cabin with shower and wc = €168
Please note the ferry runs every day at 23.00
Best regards. Alina. Viamare Ltd. Reservations Dept.
***** *****
Kobanê...Just when the politicians and military of the West have learned about fighting assymetric war they find themselves confronting a force claiming aspirations to fighting symmetrically in the style of the warrior prophet. Kobani  an undoubted place, a concept avoided in asymmetric conflict, is being fought over these last weeks. I suspect the 'West', working the old military option of patience - if only they'd done this after 9/11 - will, with the learning of the last 10 years, out-manoeuvre this unwieldy occupation of ravaged middle eastern deserts. As for the Kurdish diaspora - this must be a moment in history.
*** ***
By incomparable Tolstoy’s first line in Anna Karenina, his response to Madame Bovary perhaps, we ought, in order to be interesting, to be less than fully happy. Yet to avoid too much derivative plotting, clichés even, I wouldn’t want to paint a picture of enviable harmony masking an emerging tale of depravity…(from the prompt box – frantic rotations of fingers and a finger slashing the throat)
No no, seriously tho’, don’t bloody do those fake gaping yawns, you know how real writers can compress time; painters define foliage with hardly two deft strokes or composers hit a three note phrase that says it all…
The trouble with all this is that I try to agree with my stepfather, a master of the television anecdote. He didn’t think you should ever take your audience behind the proscenium; “Don’t share the tricks of the trade”…
I suspect that these last few weeks will show up on our tree rings, or whatever Lysenko projected was the physiological medium by which experience attached itself to genes, as a time of richly harvested joys. Yet didn’t Tolstoy also show that his hero Levin – same novel – in even his happiest moments contemplated suicide. It’s something about mixing; an alchemy in which grown-up joy is the more real through being spiced with homoeopathic dilutions of misery, depravity, despair, extinction and failure. These are dreams I have, waking to find myself among my children, beside my wife, in my home bed. Koestler implied it with the image of a walled cottage garden orchestrating an array of gentle perfumes and colours, sounds and lovely things to touch and taste, surrounded, if you lift your gaze, by a panorama of barbed wire, where Homer’s rosy fingered dawn is become a blood streamed firmament.  Wasn’t I right to cry out with revulsion when Uncle Mac on Children’s Hour sang about the bells with that finale...
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head
Chip chop chip chop - the last man's dead.
...or Strewwelpeter’s to little Conrad suck-a-thumb … ‘he comes he comes’ –  the big red scissor man.
Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go;
And Conrad cries out - Oh! Oh! Oh!
Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast;
That both his thumbs are off at last.

...just little red stumps - in that famous cautionary children’s book.
“Oh! The crying and the wailing of children!” I smiled in mock despair to our neighbours Vasiliki and Lefteri and family around their table for Sunday lunch. Foti smiled at me
“You need King Herod” he muttered with a grin.
I missed his meaning for a moment
“Massacre of the Innocents!” said Natasha to cries of horrified laughter. Ah yes indeed.
The children in Corfu 
*** ***
A new shop - for goods, coffee and drinks - has opened in the village's last kafeneon καφενείου Κεφαλλωνίτη. Crescendo run by Spiro and his brother Dimitri Vlachos, opened with the blessing of Pappa Kostas last week...
Εγκαίνια στο "Κρεσεντο" - 26/10/14
Χθες, παραμονή του Αγίου Δημητρίου, το σούρουπο, πραγματοποιήθηκαν τα εγκαίνια ενός νέου καταστήματος στο χωριό, από δύο νέους ανθρώπους, τα αδέλφια Σπύρο και Δημήτρη Βλάχο. Το κατάστημα άνοιξε στο χώρο του πρώην «καφενείου Κεφαλλωνίτη» επί του κεντρικού δρόμου, έναντι του Δημοτικού Σχολείου του χωριού και είναι πλέον πανέτοιμο να προσφέρει τρόφιμα, καφέ και γλυκά, στον ειδικά διαρρυθμισμένο χώρο του.

Τα εγκαίνια έγιναν με τον συνηθισμένο για την περίσταση αγιασμό από τον παπα-Κώστα, με την παρουσία της οικογένειας των ιδιοκτητών, φιλικών τους προσώπων και αρκετών χωριανών, ενώ μπροστά από την είσοδο υπήρχε μπουφές με κεράσματα.

Ευχόμαστε καλές δουλειές…και προπάντων με «κρεσέντο»!!!

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Simon Baddeley