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Saturday, 29 August 2015

'...στοιχεία ερωτικά, σκωπτικά και πολιτικά ανατρεπτικά...'

The laic sculptor of Ano Korakiana at work by Jan Bowman

A catalogue on the internet for Aristeidis Metallinos` Ο Αριστείδης Μεταλληνός I left Ano Korakiana in June telling Angeliki, his grand-daughter, that by September I would bring her a rough draft - on paper.
Back in England, talking to several curators of art galleries, I came away convinced that what was needed was not a hard copy - yet. I asked my son, Richard, to design a website. Yesterday he showed me his draft for a front page...

...but to get it right "You have to have high quality photo's of each sculpture.
 "Can you come to Corfu?"
Richard will bring his camera to the museum in October. I hope he can work through the works not already photographed by Rob Groove who may be able to do more.
The artist creating his work - 1984, cat 190, stone 74 x 69cm (photo: Rob Groove)
"I need speed lights and a roll of white paper"
"Hm? Can you bring your own lights?"
"Maybe. Can't you find some in Corfu?"
"Maybe. I can let you know."
"I guess we'll need to photograph about 50 to 60 pieces a day. Can they be moved?"
I imagine doing this vital process the same way Angeliki, Lin and I with help from her parents worked up the draft catalogue we made in May, listing and numbering each piece with measurements and whether it's stone or marble.
Lin and Angeliki working on the catalogue
Every on of Aristeidis' pieces has been photographed by the artist's nephew Anastasios Nikolouzos, Tassos - an invaluable record, basic to the project.
A sample of Tassos' images of the carvings

There are the lists made 10 years ago by Angeliki M, in Greek and English, recording the inscriptions on each work. Now all pieces in the collection are renumbered - chronologically - these words need to be digitised and linked to each new picture, bot for their explanatory value and to ensure identification.
Letter to Angeliki M: Αγαπητοί Αγγελική. Linda and I send love and best wishes to your family and hope you are all well. I have attached letters to me from Eurydice Antzoulatou-Retsila who knows as much as anyone outside Ano Korakiana about your grandfather. She is happy to write another article for the ‘catalogue’ we are working on about Aristeidis Metallinos. She retires from her university in the Peloponnese this month and she will be coming to Corfu, where she also worked, to visit friends and, she hopes, to visit you, your family and the museum when she is here.  My son Richard Baddeley is working on a website about the sculptor. This website will record all the works with photographs of each carving. My son says that he needs high quality photographs like those created by our friend Rob Groove from Ipsos who visited the museum this May to make an image of ‘The Saint of Preveza’ for Richard Pine’s book about Greece which will be published in October. Our son will be coming to Corfu for a week in order - with yours and your family’s permission - to take high quality photographs for the Aristeidis Metallinos catalogue which he will be putting on the website catalogue he has started to design. After we returned to England in June I asked several museum and art gallery curators about our plan to publish a catalogue. They confidently advised me that it would be far better to have a web-based catalogue containing the artist’s work and articles about him.  The advantage of this is that we can have swift free access across the world to Aristeidis’ works. The website can include texts including ones by Eurydice Antzοulatοu-Retsila, by your father and by me and you. We can also include video clips and sound recordings in English and Greek that can be accessed with a click of a computer key. People with smart phones can find out about the sculptor. A web-based catalogue has the additional advantage that it can be easily re-edited as new knowledge about your grandfather or more detailed images become available.  I hope you will not be disappointed that I am not coming back to Corfu with a ‘book’, but I am now convinced that an Aristeidis Metallinos website is the best way forward in bringing the artist to a larger audience, and certainly does not preclude a book type catalogue. If a ‘hard-copy’ catalogue is wanted for a particular exhibition of the sculptor’s work at some time in the future, this can be constructed from data in pictures and words from the internet. We are looking forward so much to being back in the village and to seeing our friends again. I don’t know exactly when Eurydice arrives on the island but as you see – in the attached letters - I have given her details of how to contact you. I hope she will be welcome in Ano Korakiana.  The work I am currently involved with is writing the English and Greek words on each of the sculptures....
First page of 15 pages - spaces await recording of transcriptions and, where needed, explanatory notes

The Scops owl Metallinos carved on a stone plaque fixed to the front of his house, displaying his initials, and holding a builder's trowel and a sculptor's hammer, is dated the year he made the transition from builder to sculptor, depicting in stone and marble a unique record of a fast changing pastoral economy, emphasising the primacy of the family, village institutions and traditional customs, yet mingling with this account of Greek folklore, works that are στοιχεία ερωτικά, σκωπτικά και πολιτικά ανατρεπτικά...erotic, ribald and subversively political.

*** *** ***
I planted parsnip seedlings, germinated in March on a wet kitchen towel at home then planted them out on the plot inside cardboard tubes to help them stay straight and not divide. Since July I've been enjoying them as soup, roasted and boiled. Late August, my friend Winnie gets my grandson's help pulling up another crop for the pot.
One of the most robust sources of happiness these last 9 months has been the fecundity of our allotment. Various actions define a turning point. For s start I did what just about anyone living in Handsworth starting with raw soil has to do - one way or another. I invested in several builders bags of black gold compost which I gradually mixed with the 'messy' soil I've been trying to work since mid-2010.
Andy of Valley Contractors delivering black gold compost to Plot 14 - July 2014

What is 'messy' soil? There's a question. This plot and others on the Victoria Jubilee are confusing in this respect. It presented itself to my spade, fork and mattock, as neither sandy, nor peat, nor clay nor chalky.
The soil as it presented itself in December 2013

This kind of rubble still being dug out of the plot in 2014
It might have the character of silt soil. Where compost has been mixed in, it might be loam. Loam and silt contain elements of the others. Why is it tricky to define?
To go way back; in Triassic times all Britain was in the tropics, our area a vast shallow lake. Far more recently - between 100,000 and 12,000 years ago...
Birmingham is about where ''e' is at the end of 'Northern Ice'
... the land was buried beneath 3000 metres of ice. The climate was like that at the North Pole now. Slow-moving sheets of ice ground the tops from the Welsh Mountains. Glaciers pushed great masses of earth and broken stone south eastwards across the clay plain.
...huge glaciers pushed millions of tonnes of sand, gravel and pebbles from Wales and from the north of Britain to the Midlands. Glacial drifts with different mixtures of sand and gravel, pebbles and clay are found in many places on top of other rocks... 
Across great lakes, blocked in by mile high ice barriers, gales blew the water into mighty waves, which, breaking, pounded fallen rocks into smooth rounded gravel. When the great thaw came, glacial drift had left rubble strewn over the landscape forming an uneven layer of water-worn pebbles mixed with sand, clay with a few larger boulders...
Winnie's stone garden - 'water-worn pebbles'  ground by glacial drift
So Handsworth and its surroundings was 'covered by glacial drift deposits 150 feet thick'. Glaciers ground the high peaks of Wales and drifted their stones all over the Midlands.  The ground stones are attractive, but  they're mixed with recent remains from activity on private allotments that were here up to the start of this century
A typical collection of glacier and water-worn stones mixed with more recent rubble dug from the plot

The account of local geology goes on to say that the local 'topsoil is porous and acidic, unsuitable for agriculture...its natural cover was light woodland and heath.'
This suggests that anyone who's used this land for growing vegetables has needed to improve their soil. I'm confident that the soil on the original Victoria Jubilee Allotments (VJA) - private land - had been undergoing steady improvement for near a century, from the time working men started using land given them by the church at the end of the 19th century. Much of the VJA had been thoroughly dug, manured and composted for decades.
The Victoria Jubilee Allotments, sold by their owners to a developer, who got planning permission to build in 2004

The old Victoria Jubilee Allotments were accessed by country lanes (photo: Luke Unsworth 2004)
Would that those of us who took up plots on the 'new' Victoria Jubilee Allotments - 80 plots on a third of the original site - in June 2010 had inherited this well prepared soil. What actually happened was that the whole site...
Google map now - the unfinished playing fields and the new housing around Victoriana Way were once all allotments
...from which Birmingham City Council eventually won the new plots and space for playing fields - still not delivered after eleven years - was first graded and built on and driven over with heavy machinery during the housebuilding that went on between 2004-2009. There were major man-made ground upheavals. First, old sheds, shrubs, trees, hedges and anything remaining on the old plots was bulldozed into several big heaps...
In 2005 the old VJA was being prepared for new allotments, playing fields and houses (photo: Luke Unsworth)

...then a large cavity was dug in the ground beneath the smaller area reserved under a S106A. It was deep enough to almost hide the diggers involved...
Landscaping on the VJA in 2005 reveals glacial drift  - pebbles, sand, clay and occasional boulders...

...and show the start of the deep sandy muddy glacial drift deposit that runs so close to the surface. Why such a large hole? Why did the developer need to create such a space? Was some of the excavated earth trucked from the site? I suspect this was all about major re-landscaping of the whole site with earth from one part being moved to other part - including the laying out of level playing fields to the south where the land had sloped gently down to the park. The original geology is confused. I didn't see it happen but my guess is that this cavity - under my present plot - was refilled from gradings elsewhere on the VJA site over which earth mixed with all left on the surface of the original VJA site was re-spread across the new site...
The new plots being laid out on the VJA
...with, as I understand, a few inches of topsoil brought in from elsewhere. I'm unclear why this was necessary and most gardeners tell me it's not especially rich and may have brought in such perennial weeds as horsetail.
On 10th June applicants signed up for their plots. Linda and I chose one overlooking Handsworth Park.
Signing up for our plot (photo: Richard Baddeley)

I started work - innocent and ignorant - on preparing our new cherished hard-won plot.
Summer 2010

The earth was dry, dusty, full of weeds, pebbles, stones and odds-and-ends that had been part of the furnishings of the previous plots that had been here - worked wood, plastic, metal brackets, wire, fragments of fabric, many coloured pieces of broken glass, bricks, rubble...
It was a start. I was carried forward, as I am now, by interest, enthusiasm for learning, excitement at the prospect of growing things, getting a shed, making Plot 14 into a place.
July 2015 ((photo: Richard Baddeley)

*** *** ***
1. Making sense of the soil - from figuring the local geology; investing in topsoil and compost; knowing the history of the site to explain some of the objects brought up by the spade. Studying the book recommended by Barry Luckhurst - Gardener's Earth by Stanley B. Whitehead and beginning to learn the art of composting.
Palette composting bays laid out in March 2015

2. Making the improved soil laying and widening paths to create beds I can get at without treading on worked soil.
My rough plan of Plot 14 in 2015

I used the HHH van (with a donation for time and fuel - all logged and transparent) to deliver hundreds of bricks recovered from skips and front yards, with permission. These are easily moved to change the shape of a bed as carpet tiles, collected in a discarded batch while clearing a Handsworth garden, can quickly create temporary paths as well as holding down the hem of netting. All paths on the plot have been  covered with permeable weed control membrane fixed with staples...

I've stocked up with plastic tubing to use as frames for nets, investing in veggiemesh and, for winter, bubble wrap to protect from frost.  I now set up a netted framework swiftly; a crowbar to make the holes, Each end of a cut-to-length plastic tube inserted in the holes; the hoops strengthened with bamboo fixed with plastic ties to the hoops. Then the mesh spread over the frame, staples inserted to hold it down and carpet tiles to cover any excess spreading on the surrounding path.
3. Winnie. She is my steward and farm hand and friend as interested in the plot as I and with a dad who also has an allotment, and a young son who works with her on the plot and plays with Oliver, my grandson, when he's here.
Winnie and Simon on 'our' plot this January

Cutting out cabbage buttterfly eggs and damaged leaves on Brussels Sprouts

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Simon Baddeley