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Saturday, 19 September 2015

Late summer in Greece

Our balcony is festooned with grapes. I eat them pips and all. Down at Piatsa with Mark we were canvassed at the weekend by SYRIZA's MP Fotini Vaki. I took the opportunity to give Richard Pine's latest book - this one about Greece 'through Irish eyes' - some exposure...The general election is next Sunday - tomorrow. The village will be full of voters and cars but there's far less excitement about this election than the one in January. Alexis Tsipras is now another bail-out signatory, mucking down to EU conditions due in October as part of the next tranche of prop-up credit...
At Piatsa on Democracy Street with my friend Mark and Fotini Vaki MP

I have two complimentary copies of Richard's book, one for me and one for Angeliki Metallinos, whose grandfather's work appears on page 244...
The other day, a while away, we had a family supper to celebrate Arthur's and Dorothy's 70th wedding anniversary. Cards at Clinton's ran out at the 50th. Our waitress kindly took a photo of us at Toby's Carvery in Sutton...
Guy, Simon, Richard, Linda, Hannah, Dorothy, Arthur, Amy and Oliver
It's almost astonishing that Dorothy is enduring three weeks of radiotherapy for cancer; treatment she undergoes with stoicism and dignity - a few minutes every afternoon at the cancer unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston. Sometime near the end of last year, in part as a result of pressure from Lin, the medics switched from care that could be regarded as 'palliative', to therapy at probably the best hospital in the kingdom. They made a plastic mould of Dot's face that holds her head steady as, lying on a table, the large and very expensive linear accelerator directs beams at specific points on her face, targeting her nasal cavity cancer - result, Lin's surmised, of her mum's work years ago in the leather industry in Walsall.
My father-in-law and my mother-in-law - Dorothy (91) and Arthur (97) in our garden in Handsworth

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Minor irritations, that didn’t bother great Achilles…
Outside the unique Achilleon Palace with Lin's cousin Val beside Herter's cheesy sculpture of the dying Achilles 1884 filling my paper coffee cup during turbulence at 30.000 feet from small spits of milk squeezed from a fistful of catering packs passed down from the passing trolley...
Sent 22 Aug 2015 by Simon B ... Your ref: *** Parking charge notice: *** This morning I received Debt Recovery Plus Ltd’s demand for payment of an unpaid parking charge dated **/08/2014. Can we proceed to court on this matter at our mutual and earliest convenience, rather than any party wasting further time exchanging correspondence?  I have evidence to present to a judge from a file on this incident that goes back to the date of the charge, most of it involving certified letters and notices which received neither acknowledgement nor replies from UK Parking Control Ltd. Yours sincerely… 
Received 28th Aug. Thank you for your email regarding the above Parking Charge Notice (PCN). As per the British Parking Association’s (BPA) Code of Practice, Point 22.7, the time to challenge the charge has now expired and therefore access to the Independent Appeals Service (if applicable) is no longer available….I feel obligated to inform you that, under the Pre-Action Protocol of the Civil Procedural Rules, court action must only be viewed as a last resort. I am attempting to abide by this direction by trying to settle the matter amicably without court involvement. Your actions may be viewed as obstructive to this aim and will be made clear to the court should the matter escalate to such a stage. Please ensure that £150.00 is paid by 1th September 2015. Payment can be made online or by phone…. 
Sent 29 August 2015…I’ve asked for this matter to be brought to court so that I can, as well as presenting a defence, describe my attempts to communicate with your client, who failed to acknowledge that I had issued an appeal immediately after the imposition of the parking charge, failed to give my appeal due consideration and failed in their legal requirement to inform me of my right to appeal to an independent body. You claim to be attempting to comply with Pre-Action Protocol of the Civil Procedural Rules, as this is actually the responsibility of the private parking company, not of a debt collection agency. I deny this alleged debt. Any debt can only be established by a court hearing. No court hearing has taken place regarding this speculative invoice and UKPC had no legal grounds for referring this matter to a debt collection agency. I am under no obligation to have any communication with you and, should I receive any further correspondence from you, other than an acknowledgement of this letter, will seek compensation for harassment. Yours truly, etc 
Received 1st September 2015...Thank you for your email. Harassment has been referred to and therefore I feel obliged to point out that under S1(3)(c) of The Harassment Act 1997, a course of conduct that someone alleges to be harassment will not be deemed so if the person who pursued it shows that in the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable. Under the circumstances our course of action has been entirely reasonable and in no way reaches the high threshold of harassment. Our company has legitimately pursued recompense for a breach of the terms and conditions attached to our client’s site. Kind regards 
Sent 1st September…Dear ***. You are saying that pursuing someone for a debt unproven by a court is ‘reasonable’. UK courts disagree. I will treat this letter as an acknowledgement of my last email as requested. Yours….I
On other early spring we had a water meter installed. The work sprung a leak on our side of the meter. The water company requires us, who'd asked for a meter to save on water rates exceeding £800, to pay the repair of the supply pipe to our house. A friendly and intelligent agency plumber found the leak under our driveway. There’d be no need to delve expensively under the house. He warned that mending would take many weeks while his company gained permission to access the pavement a few inches from our frontage. 8 weeks later and into autumn this permission has yet to be obtained. The leak continues. We hear it in the pipes. Our insurance covers the work, for an excess charge of £200. We’d feared more, and the water company, on a one-off condition, guarantees a post meter installation refund of the charge for the leaked water. We wait.

...and another, in our attic next to our header tank  - increasingly rare in these days of closed systems – there’s an expansion tank. For about a year water heated to provide a shower would, after a few minutes of the boiler lighting, splutter forcibly out of the pipe into that tank, overflow it and leak through the landing ceiling into a plastic tray placed to collect the worst of the drips, whose brownish water made discreet drip lines down the plasterwork. Yacub, our neighbour, a heating engineer, after repeated pleas inspected and suggested a new thermostat. I dug out the paperwork for our 30 year-old boiler, identified make and mark; bought the part on ebay for under £30. A second visit by Yacub. He suggested the thermostat wasn’t the problem. Perhaps, he surmised, "You need a thermostat on your boiler tank upstairs" “Perhaps?” There the problem rested through warm months until we thought of winter. I phoned Dermott, recommended by a neighbour, who came almost at once. His inspection said the boiler needed a thermostat. I dug out the spare from ebay. He fitted it in minutes and waited with, us testing the repair. £140 for his expertise. A worry off our list. We left the plastic tray where it was – in case.
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In early September I’m alerted by a text from a a friend, that the company that produced and retails my stepfather’s recovered TV programmes has ‘gone into administration’. I ask about the timing of my next royalty cheque – due in August, a useful sum.
Dear X. I have heard troubling news that xxx have been put into administration. If this is not the case please reassure me to that effect. If it is true can you please forward me contact details for the administrator. Yours S 
Dear Simon. I am sorry I haven't spoken to you, but have been out at meeting for the last couple of days. We are having to sell the business, through no fault of our own, which hopefully should be finalised in the next couple of days. The purchaser will no doubt be in touch with you. No, we are not in Administration, I can only guess who told you we were. Best wishes X 
Dear X. So I miss Jan-Jun royalties!  Can I assume that this is 'for the time being' and that what I should have been paid in August will be swiftly paid by your new owners. When can I expect the new owners to honour the obligations they acquired with the purchase of the business? I’d appreciate contact details rather than having to wait until they choose to contact me. I am, as you may imagine, seriously vexed at missing over £xxxx expected for half-year earnings on sale of OOT DVDs. Yours Simon 
I'm not at all happy with the situation myself Simon. It's all due to AAAA, at the end of April we were due a payment for CDs we supplied for £140,000. We received from AAAA £10,000 and £130,000 worth of stock back for credit. It made YYYY, our bankers, panic, wanting their overdraft repaid ASAP. We have sold the racking business, but (are) still to be paid some money. We have two sealed offers for the rest of the business. It will be decided who gets it and the terms in the next few days. Best regards X Sent …from my iPhone
It’s my guess that the company is already in administration.

These things would have no more effect than a slightly barked shin on my normal sense of slightly detached optimism and well-being, especially when balanced against such good things as my shared involvement in maintaining the profile of Black Patch Park…
- The plan to build on part of it still exists but in 18 months has made no progress tho’ we stay in congenial touch with Tony Deep MBE of Eastside Foods... 

Andrews letter to Sandwell MBC this July…. Our constitution states: “The Friends of Black Patch Park is a group committed to the retention in perpetuity of the whole of Black Patch Park and to the improvement of the Park for the benefit of all local people.“ Endorsing a development that would see a significant proportion of the park disappear is therefore a major step for the Friends to take and will in our view require much more detailed information on what is being proposed and dialogue on how any proposed development might be done in such a way as to minimise the social and environmental impacts, while maximising the benefits to the park – its heritage and biodiversity – and the current and future and park users.
The Friends Christmas card in 2006 - The Black Patch in winter (photo: Karen Fry)

- Wikipedia’s entry on Charlie Chaplin does not admit the man was born on the Black Patch – does anyone? – but no longer confidently claims London as his birthplace
- With support from my fellow Friends of Black Patch Park I’ve suggested the park become the responsibility of Birmingham – message to the committee”
Hi everyone. Below my words is an acknowledgement from the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) . I am copying this to Cllr Sharon Thompson of Soho Ward who has shown an active interest in this proposal and endorses the idea that Black Patch be brought back into Birmingham as her electorate comprise its main users.
QUOTE TO LGBCE consultation on 4th Sept 2015 from Simon Baddeley on behalf of the FoBPP: For the committee of the Friends of Black Patch Park I have been asked to make recommendations to alter the boundary of Soho Ward in Birmingham to include this park, which, until 1974, was inside Birmingham. Black Patch Park is presently inside Sandwell MBC, bounded by Foundry Lane, Woodburn Road, Perrott Street and Kitchener Street, at grid reference SP038888. I’ve not marked the consultation map with specific details as the Boundary Commission may, via other consultations, have an expert understanding of ways to include this green space in Birmingham’s Soho Ward. The argument for including Black Patch Park within Soho, has been informed by discussion with Soho Ward members, Cllrs Sharon Thompson and Chaman Lal, who, with us, argue that most users of the park, and those most likely to approach their councillors about the park, and its unused community centre, are nearby residents of Birmingham. Over 20 years all but a few Sandwell residents, once living next to the Black Patch, have moved. The main users of this potentially attractive small green space are separated from it, not by geography, but by a council boundary that we propose should be changed. (END)
…and the fecundity of the allotment.
“A work of art” surmises Winnie “That’s what it’ll be!”
We sit under the shed veranda sipping tea looking past the grape-fringed trellis admiring our new fruit cage – a structure held together by carefully propped bamboos and bright green scaffolding net.

Winnie and her boy on Plot 14

I've numbered every bed at last.
..and started notes...
PLOT 14 ~ 8 Sept 2015

Asparagus – 8 plants from Scylla’s plots lifted and replanted 2/9/15 Daff bulbs planted 9/9 in corners. [Potatoes sown and harvested March-June – wireworm)
Grazing rye (Secale cereale) seeded 6/9/15 – experiment with green manure. Spring 2016 dig in
This bed (perhaps others wireworm infested – ruining potatoes). Potato traps set (spuds on sticks under soil) 9/9 daff bulbs planted on two edges [Onions sown and harvested – Jan-July’15. Some onion fly]
Runner beans – seedlings planted June 2015.  West end of bed: turnips planted from seed in June. Not thinned enough?
Brussel sprouts – seedlings planted June. Attacked by cabbage white caterpillars despite netting, also slugs. Used pellets, and cut off egged and skeletonised leaves.
Beetroots. Grown from seeds germinated at home and replanted mid-June. Mixed success. (Peas sown and harvested – March-early June’15. Leaves damaged by pigeons)
Fallow [Potatoes sown and harvested March-Aug’15]
Garlic – cloves from previous crop planted 7/9/15
Aubergine. 4 plants from seedlings in mid-June. Unlikely to fruit.
Swedes planted from seed in early June. North: Brussels sprouts (ditto as for bed 5
Jerusalem artichoke clump. Regrowing from last year’s tubers. Apple tree
Pear. Balm scented poplar. Buddleia
Apple. Plum. Stone garden
Pond. Various edge plants. Wild strawberry, rushes, speargrass, Chives, Lobelia 4/9/15
Rhubarb x 2 planted March 2015. No harvest 1st year
fallow. Couple of transplanted parsnips.
Parsnips. Already harvesting. Germinated in early March 2015 and sown out late March.
East: turnip planted June. West: Winter cabbage seeded June. All netted.
Brussels sprouts – seedlings planted mid-June.  As in beds 5 & 10, attacked by cabbage white caterpillars despite netting, also slugs. Used pellets, and cut off egged and skeletonised leaves.
Mountain Ash.  Thyme & Rosemary trans-planted from Scylla’s plot 3/9/15.  Rhubarb planted in March’15. No harvest 1st year
Runner beans. Planted from seedlings in early June. Harvesting started mid-Aug
Fruit net. Raspberry, tayberry, gooseberry bushes planted in late Aug.
Fruit net. Raspberry, tayberry planted late Aug.  West: cauliflower [Broad beans sown and harvested April-June’15. Winnie planted in April after my sowing in March failed]
Fruit net. Strawberries planted end of Aug – transplants from Scylla’s plot

3 compost bays were built at the end of March 2015. Usable earth in Bay 3, from riddled soil recovered from plot digging and added well rotted leaf-mould. Older compost in bay 1 seems working down well (8/9/15). Later material with added accelerator has gone into bay 2. This is warm. On 5/9/15 I experimented by added approx 75 brandling worms to bays 1 & 2. Both 1 & 2 are covered with carpet over 6” thick insulation blocks.

There are also 2 plastic upright composters for immediate organic material.
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...and a message from the Chair of Handsworth Helping Hands
Hello Simon. Preparing Environmental article ‎for Birchfield Bugle and wondering how many residents we would have serviced over last year with our activities. I'm thinking 1500 households and say 20 Vulnerable individuals, but I could be wrong, any idea on tonnage dropped off to Holford, furniture recycled, etc? Cheers, Mike
Dear Mike. Excellent. My guess - part conjectural. Tonnage of waste to Holford during 2014-2015 under our charity disposal licence is about 13 tonnes - all recorded in the van log. We’ve also probably removed a great deal more in the skips we and partners pay for when doing street clean-up days, so you could add, at a guess, at least another 20 tons ,to which you might add the skimming off of overloads of skips by Council Fleet and Waste. 1500 households could include all residents in streets where we run clean-up days as well as households benefiting from our scavenging - removing specific items from an address and at the same time an eyesore from neighbouring homes.
Might be better to use van log to list all the streets where we have had both ‘Skip-it Don’t tip it’ days as well as the two places we’ve done or started ‘Clean up Green up’ projects as well as various planters all over the area.
I think we’ve assisted more than 20 vulnerable individuals with clearance, furniture moving, gift recycling, gardening, and specific assistance with phoning and contacting people needing help they couldn’t get themselves from BCC and/or Midland Heart - but again we should add these all up next committee.
I think HHH has (with a very small number of mostly pension-age volunteers) established a reputation for ‘working’, ‘getting things done’, even ‘settling disputes through tactful conversations with neighbours’ (educational work re collection dates and how to fill recycling bins etc.). We have I believe always been polite and shown good will in even frustrating situations (in other words we are Handsworth street-wise’, plus we seem to have done well in partnerships with MH, Fleet and Waste, Community Foundation, and BRAG...and of course many residents in streets we’ve worked over the year/s. We’re also transparent as regards accounts and minutes of our meetings.
I am sure you won’t crow about this, Mike. Complement those who’ve helped us; mention generous donations to HHH, some of which, if not receipted cash donations, include gifts we’ve passed on to Birmingham Charities - SIFA Fireside, Red Cross, City Mission, and the Birmingham Dogs’ Home, also the pensioners' buffet at The Stork Pub last Christmas.
We should also mention our lively use of Facebook with illustrations for social networking and exchange of information with residents, city officers and elected members about HHH but also as a noticeboard for other local events in Handsworth, Lozells and Birchfield, plus work done identifying unoccupied, abandoned properties that have become rubbish magnets and, in one case, a cannabis factory. Lobbying members and officers, HHH has managed to draw attention to vacant properties whose owners are supposed to pay extra on top of council tax for leaving them empty. We have also dealt with the gating of alleys, cul-de-sacs and vulnerable green spaces where security has been lax, identifying who is responsible for maintenance and replacement. In this way HHH have ensured that some of the ‘grot spots’ in the area no longer attract fly-tipping. We have also, without becoming party political, been using reports on Fix My Street and photos on the social web, to keep the issue of street cleaning and tidiness on the Council’s agenda.

You might mention that commendation from the last Lord Mayor last March! Best wishes, Simon
Tea break for HHH volunteers courtesy of a resident

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Simon Baddeley