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Saturday, 31 October 2015

He who shewed mercy

I find the words of Job's helpers timeless in decrying my own thoughts and - so help me - perhaps actions, when trying to think of something to say to someone who's suffered a great loss. Easier to keep a distance but wrong. The same applies to the motives, unmentioned, of the priest and the Levite who both saw the man lying injured beside the 17 mile route and passed by on the other side. 'Priest' and 'Levite' - both people of a status and upbringing suggesting they ought to have known better. How pregnant is the silence of their excuses! I can fill in some of the spaces. "It might be a ruse. I wasn't born yesterday", "The man's drunk", "He has an infectious disease. My family!", "I'll go to the the authorities the moment I get to Jericho". These refugees. Innumerable. It is impossible to have a clear conscience except when in the midst of an act of kindness. Pause to allow reasoning. I'm in trouble.
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With my family for a Christmas day out

In Effie's Garden for Dimitra's 17th birthday

My two families - English and Greek
I saw them by Sydney Harbour

‘The basic premise of Greekness, the fundamental identity of the individual and the family is the motive power of art.” p.190
I look up from where I’m reading Richard’s book, still in my nightdress, sat on the balcony, enjoying the sun as it dries the dew settled on tables and chairs overnight. Staring up, shielding my eyes, a perfect double vapour trail pours from a tiny translucent brooch travelling in the azure over the island at 45° toward the rain gutter just above my head. The lines intersect. The plane vanishes, its muted rumble, just perceptible, continues until having enveloped the landscape, it jumps the mountain behind the village. The trail dissolves almost at once. Richard Pine writes of ‘unease’ in this land (p.190-191) about ‘authenticity and continuity’, ‘especially when “authentic” classical art is so different from 'authentic” classical culture’. In the previous chapter he speaks of having lost the will to live after Greece’s light was yet again hailed as ‘luminous’ during an 11 minute travelogue Gods, Myths, Heroes, designed in 2015 to promote tourism. ‘Crassly clichéd and juvenile I shrank in disbelief as I watched it’.
Richard may have been steeped, at the same school as I long ago, in the wondrous normality of classical Greece. That connection, that sublime marble head we were given in childhood and youth, is an irrevocable gift – a discipline and guide for life and death, anywhere - despite its steady excision from the syllabus of contemporary British education. But Richard’s alert to the truism that when we – who’s we? -  touch down on the concrete of Athens, Corfu, Lesbos (carefully screened from Middle Eastern refugees) or a hundred other tourist destinations we’ll be unlikely to find ourselves, as the travelogue promises, walking ‘through the forest with Artemis by our side’ noticing that the ‘olive trees that dot the landscape are the gift of Athena.’ (p.184). Richard says the tourist could be pointed towards Greece today, a place and state of mind that, given the economic and social depression of the times, could benefit from wise marketing. Instead there’s that ‘marble head’ still held – of which George Seferis said, complained, 80 years ago, “it exhausts my elbow and I don’t know where to put it down”.
Extract from Aristeidis Metallinos' The Vendor in the Village  - cat. 222

Extract from Aristeidis Metallinos' The Vendor in the Village 

Extract from Aristeidis Metallinos' The Vendor in the Village 

Extract from Aristeidis Metallinos' The Vendor in the Village 
Richard’s explorations interest me greatly for the reason that he returns several times to the various ways Greek artists, in recent times, have found places to rest that marble head, looking back to other springs than those rising from the ‘Glory that was Greece’, looking to more recent pasts, influenced by individuals and events that had as much as and more to do with the character of Modern Greece. He refers to the Cretan epic poem Erotókritos; to the Ionian poet Dionysios Solomos who wrote the words of the National Anthem; ...
to tavern ballads, fuelling ‘the desire by writers to regard the demotic, the life of the peasant and the village (or, today, the small urban community), as the thesaurus of their imagination and their confrontation with reality.’(p.191)
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Since I learned Delta Leisure, retailer of my stepfather’s DVDs, has gone into liquidation, I’ve been sending emails and making phone calls, to find out what’s happening with the company’s unsold stock of Out of Town DVDs as well as the whereabouts of master copies, art work, as well exploring the possibility of recovering unpaid royalties owed me on DVDs the company sold the first half of 2015. The process is slow - in part because Delta seem to have been selling off stock, including - without permission - films I’d licenced to them, in an effort to maintain cash flow before their bank pulled the plug. I’m not the only creditor in the dark.
Charles Webster emailed me the news before it became official and suggested I hurry to rescind my licence on the basis of insolvency and breach of contract and retrieve as much of my property as possible via the liquidator Meghan Andrews of Wilkins Kennedy LLP. It took two phone calls to get a response from her, after emails with hard copies of letters and legal attachments to follow, went unacknowledged. Her letter on 20th Oct:
Simon, I refer to your email below and our telephone conversation this morning. Firstly, please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to your correspondence. As discussed, on 21 September 2015 the Joint Administrators sold the Company’s stock and intellectual property to Vivat Direct Limited and Simply Media TV Limited respectively. Please note that the sales of these assets were only subject to such right, title and interest as the Company held in the same and as such cannot over-ride any contractual terms between yourself and the Company.  Please contact (she gives a name and contact details) regarding your masters and any stock that was subject to your contract with the Company. With regards to the monies owed to you in relation to the royalties that accrued in the period January to July 2015, this will constitute your unsecured claim in the Administration and I have attached a proof of debt form in this regard for your completion. Please be advised that I do not know if the Company’s records are sufficient for me to be able to advise you on the sales in the period to Administration and I am currently making enquiries in this respect for other licensors and so will advise you once I have established the position. Kind Regards
Contacting Gary Hopkins of SimplyMedia to confirm termination of licence, to caution against illegal sales of ‘Out of Town’ material as a breach of my rights and ask where I can find and collect OOT stock...I was sent a spreadsheet showing the whereabouts of separate batches of Delta stock...
Dear Gary. Thanks for that reply and spreadsheet. I will examine it carefully and come back to you if I have further questions. Delta seem to have been very ‘busy' with my material from July onward, making its recovery more complicated than I anticipated. I will start the process of collecting OOT material when I get back to UK, allowing for the delays you mention in your last letter. I attach the letter to Meghan Andrews of 20th Oct. It supplemented the other two letters I copied to you, seeking a written confirmation of what I had been told by Meghan over the phone. She and her organisation have not been especially efficient at answering my communications I’m afraid. Kind regards, Simon
Hi Simon. Obviously I am not privy to what Delta were doing in their final months, but I suspect you are better off without them. I have just had a look at the Delta sales spreadsheet and one customer  is shown as purchasing 3,728 units of OOT titles in August, having never purchased before. We did happen to see an invoice to this company which included 1,600 units of OOT stock - there was a bit of a story to it….
I don't know if that helps at all  in terms of Delta having been very "busy"? regards, G
Clearly there’s lots of work to do, including looking out for pirate sales of that last minute purchase of liquidated Delta stock to which Gary refers, as well as arranging to pick up a small amount of material from Cinram Logistics in Aylesbury, 255 units of OOT stock from MAM Logistics Group in Winsford, Cheshire and what appears to be much unsorted unspecified stock – in deep storage - from a warehouse provider in Milton Keynes – this latter not until the New Year, rescued it seems from destruction by Delta’s warehouse provider.
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I got news - 28th Oct - from Nicci Collins, that Handsworth Helping Hands’ (HHH) applications for the ‘Four Avenues Project’ for which John Rose and I submitted an application in July, has been approved.
Dear Simon. Re: - Application for Funding - Birmingham West & Central Local Community Safety Partnership; Small Grants Fund. Following your recent application, I am pleased to confirm that you have been awarded funding of £2140 for your Handsworth Helping Hands project. To finalise this, please…
…Nicci lists requests for a copy of our latest bank statement, our constitution, our policy statement on protection of children and vulnerable people, our latest DBS certificates, and an invoice that includes the number with which HHH is registered with Birmingham City Council’s Voyager system All these are digitised so that’s all straightforward. When this project is completed, HHH must also be ready to complete an account of how we have spent the grant and how far our proposed project has achieved its aims - a reasonable request.
“Now” as Lin points out “we have to do the work”
She's already reminding me of how swiftly £2140 can be used up. I've got to see if the researcher we lined up 4 months ago is still available, otherwise we must quickly find another. I've no illusions as to how easy it is to say you will do ‘some research’. Actually doing it is another matter. I think of how tricky it may be to draw out useful generalisations as to opinions among our inchoate, polyglot, transient and hyper-diverse population. We should still try.
This project focuses on two of Birmingham Community Safety Partnership’s priorities – mobilising communities and helping vulnerable people. HHH’s plan is to carry out a variety of activities that draw on HHH’s existing skills and experience in managing ‘Clean-up Green-up’ projects with local people in four specific places – Brackley Avenue B20 3RG, Putney Avenue B20 3QU, Poplar Avenue B20 3QQ and Crompton Avenue B20 3QR, supported by research that offers the prospect of discovering how best to ensure that improvements made in these areas will last.
Recovery: With or without research these projects can start, as with other work we do in Handsworth, with one-off removal of mattresses and other bulky waste from residents unable to afford the services, accompanied by general waste accumulation clearance and street and alley tidying, no longer reliably carried out by the Council. In this stage our chief expenditure will be the provision of skips and their collection and removal, in partnership with BCC Fleet and Waste Management where skips risk over-filling.
Improvement: By ‘green-up’ we add to our ‘clean-up’ activities by drawing on the results of our research ‘reconnaissance’, to make environmental improvements such as make-overs of domestic frontages, including the provision, at the start of the 2016 growing season, of hanging baskets and pots as well as small repairs such as fence mending and gate hinge replacement. We also plan, with the involvement of local residents, to recover - with flowering evergreen shrubs - and weeding, currently overgrown street planters and other neglected public amenities for which no-one currently owns responsibility.
Continuity: To give continuity to our current local improvement work in Handsworth and add value to what we do, HHH plans to begin this project by investing £400 from the Small Grants Fund to employ a researcher. This will represent an agreed 50 hours research door-knocking and analysis exercise to find out what factors, including HHH activity, most encourage local people to assist us when we start working, to stay with us as well as continuing the improvements HHH volunteers have, with residents, been able to achieve in the four avenues. Additional measures contributing to continuity are those which improve upon the ‘recovery’ activities, involving equipment and materials such as plants, hanging baskets, compost, weed suppressant, pegs, and, where appropriate, kneelers, gloves, and small gardening tools to be used by us (three of us having extensive gardening and landscaping experience) and where requested, left with residents, sometimes in return for a donation. 
On the separate matter of a further grant to HHH from The Handsworth Charity, overseen by St Mary’s Parish Committee, to provide upkeep of our van during 2016-17, prospects seem good. That looks so simple compared to the ‘Four Avenues’ endeavour. It hardly matters whether our grant is small, like the one we’ve just won, or large. I see so many far larger sums of money seemingly disappearing into the black hole of apathy, inefficiency, incompetence and dubious and even outright corruption, that I’d rather work with a relatively small sum on a forlorn hope. If we don’t succeed the money will still be accounted for and little wasted. If we do succeed, we will have learned how to use a larger sum better.
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The Loveridges - descendants of the Gypsies evicted from the Black Patch in the 1900s, now supporters of the FoBPP
My friend Phil Crumpton from Smethwick keeps me in touch with any goings on about Black Patch Park. He send me a press story about the initiative the Friends of BPP told me to pursue – suggesting the Black Patch be brought into Birmingham’s Soho Ward. It’s a long shot but the Local Government Boundary Commission are redrawing wards in Birmingham. They might just give attention to the possibility of changing the profile of a peripheral Birmingham ward to take in the few extra acres of the Black Patch. There’d be no more cash from Birmingham than there’s been from Sandwell MBC but we might get a little more political traction on the future of a Birmingham Park than a Sandwell, who might be glad to be free of the cash they spend trying to stop the park and its surrounding streets being a long term fly-tipping magnet.
Black Patch Park and the Merry Hill Allotments in Soho & Victoria Ward, Sandwell MBC - on the border of Birmingham

August 3, 2015 10:19 pm...The main problem with this lovely little park is that no-one opens their window or front door on it. People who once lived around the Black Patch and would bring pressure to keep it clean and welcoming have moved or been moved away. The area is designated for industry, despite having all the infrastructure (metro, buses, roads, local schools and the cycle path along the nearby Birmingham Mainline canal) needed for badly needed housing all around it. The place is rich with mature trees and wildlife. A green oasis in a rough area. I love the Black Patch and find it magical - even with the fly-tipping inside and out (not just travellers'). The connection to history - Charlie Chaplin's likely birthplace, the Soho Foundry, the long association with the Romany, evicted from it in 1907 to create a 'recreation ground' - are a bonus but what the park needs is users. It doesn't help that the park is in Sandwell's Soho and Victoria Ward, when most of its users are in Birmingham's Soho Ward. It was once a Birmingham Park. it could be again. I wonder if Sandwell MBC really want the Black Patch. It's a headache. They've no money to spend on this historic space in an odd corner of their Borough

Express and Star 11th Oct 2015 - Campaigners: Let city run historic Smethwick park

Residents say Black Patch Park in Smethwick – believed to be the birthplace of Charlie Chaplin – has been neglected, with rubbish scattered around it on a regular basis. Although Sandwell Council has removed waste that has been dumped on several occasions, protestors and local residents believe the park has been in a state of decline for some time.
As the park is close the Birmingham border, many in the area believe it would be beneficial for it to be swallowed up by the second city.
Contact has already been made with Birmingham councillor Sharon Thompson to discuss the idea. The boundaries in Birmingham are set to change in 2018, with people being asked what they would like to see changed as part of a public consultation.
Charlie Chaplin’s son Michael made a prestigious trip to the park in August to unveil a new monument but was forced to trudge through rubbish as he made his way through the park, to the embarrassment of visitors.
Some people living in the area believe the park is not as well-maintained as others in Sandwell.
Simon Baddeley, a founder member of the Friends of Black Patch Park group, said: “There is a certain logic to it. It was a Birmingham park until the 1950s and many of the people who use it are from Birmingham. There are no votes in that park for Sandwell, it is right in a little corner of the borough and they have other parks to look after. I would think Sandwell would be glad to be rid of the headache.”
Councillor Thompson, who represents the Soho ward on Birmingham City Council, just over the border from Smethwick, suggested a move might not be out of the question.
She said: “It’s not that simple, it would be down the Boundary Commission. There is a consultation around boundaries in general and the public have been invited to take part in that consultation. If people have concerns about Black Patch Park and have justifiable reasons why it should be in the Soho ward they should contribute towards that consultation.
Cllr Sharon Thompson, Soho Ward, in Birmingham City Centre
“If Black Patch Park came into my ward I would obviously work with local residents to try and help them with anything they wanted to do.”
Sandwell Council said it was not aware of any plans to change who has responsibility for Black Patch Park and said the fact it has cleared up five tonnes of rubbish this week had demonstrated its commitment to it.
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Beside the wheelie bins on the carpark in Ano Korakiana someone had dumped a high quality children's mattress - metal sprung between sturdy layers of coconut matting. Naturally it came home with us. With some difficulty I removed the zipped cover and washed it, removing two rain rust stains and minor dirt. Then came the twenty minute task of getting the cover back on....

...I struggled.
"Give it here!"
Lin took over, turned the cover inside out and starting at one end we tugged the cover back on and zipped it up.
"That'll be just right for Hannah next time she's here"
How utterly outside the market are our DIY endeavours. Amy found some abandoned wooden shutters in a rubbish pile at the back of the beach we enjoyed at Sidari a few weeks ago.
Our favourite Sidari beach - out of season
Lin said “They could do for our bathroom window. The rain drives in there under the metal window frame, Mosquitoes get in, despite the lace curtain, if we leave the window open to get rid of condensation. The place is the dampest room in the house.”
Two weeks later two of the shutters, a hinged pair meant for one side of a larger window, have been cut to size, with much offering up, heavy sanding to give a gradient on the closing edges and some chipping of the render round the window.

Small patches of rot at the bottom edge of each shutter were cut out with the multicutter - what a tool that is -
 ...and hard wood plugs made up to insert and glue in place after the holes had been thoroughly painted with preservative; the surface smoothed with a sander. Lin repaired all other small cracks with silicone filler, after which I did further sanding, including each surface of 44 louvre slats. I inserted a latch; inset, again with the multicutter, to avoid colliding with the mosquito net that must go between window and shutters. Lin applied undercoat to both shutters. After this had dried, came two coats, all over, of rich Corfu green gloss.
My first attempt to attach an upright inside the window on which the shutters would swing failed; my drilling for holes for rawlplugs breaking away chunks of render and the roughened edges of loosely mortared air bricks. Moving the upright in an inch, I found holding, made firmer with strong glue in the drilled holes and around rawlplugs. The upright was treated with anti-termite and woodworm liquid followed by preservative, then undercoat, then two coats of Corfu gloss. My multi-tool made easy work of cutting the insets for two recovered male hinges, but of course now the upright was lodged inside the window aperture. The only way to get the shutters in and out to offer them up entailed unscrewing and rescrewing the hinges. I’m glad of an electric screwdriver.
To work on the shutters I climb carefully out of the kitchen window and stand in the narrow space between our house and the neighbour’s wall. Lin can also pass tools out to through the bathroom window. We got the hire-car back on Thursday, so I drove down to a window shop on the road to the airport. Showing the craftsman a diagram with measurements he made me a mosquito net on a spring runner as I watched. At last some cash involved! €40 but he had no change. I drove a mile or so around a complicated one-way system until I found a sweet shop where I got €10 of pralines and change for my €50 note. I’d previously tried for change from a Fistaria ordering two souvlakia but before I could present my note a priest entered and ordered a box of roast chicken that was already piping from the grill. He handed over a large note, using up all the change in the till. I ended up paying for my order – delicious, but only €2.50, with the last of my small change.
Back home with the mosquito net I set about the work of fitting the side pieces and the net holder inside the window aperture in the small gap between the shutters and the window; a near perfect fit, but the space lacked a single true right-angle as I knew. I lined up four rawlplugged holes on each side with small wood slivers steadying the framework. It was finally in place but the spring had somehow gone right out of the wind up roller. The mosquito frame and net will have to go back to the shop on Monday, except that’s the day I’ve also arranged for the professional I’ve found - contrary to Lin’s wishes, she thinking we can do it ourselves – to destroy the wasps in the roof above our heads which needs to be recovered beneath its tiles, a job for which I’m also hoping to get a quote on Monday morning.
Lin sent this picture for our wedding anniversary - 31st Oct 1978 or was it '79? Whatever

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