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Monday, 2 July 2007

More rain

Had a meeting on campus and then took the train into New Street from where I cycled home in increasing rain. The towpath was a succession of puddles through which I splashed - the waveless surface of Birmingham Mainline corrugated and curved by gusting wind and sheeting rain. Back on the road gutters were awash. A motorist swerved from one long brown pond into another throwing up a bow-wave that broke behind me. I and my pannier were waterproofed but for my shoes and socks. Then came thunder. Water fell perpendicular from the overcast, bouncing off the tarmac, squirting from gutterpipes, weighing down trees, soaking foliage so thoroughly it could give no shelter, and increased until I was cycling through curtains of water. I travelled through the unslakeable urban landscape like a spaniel in a marsh - almost happy. It rained like this in Corfu one day last September. Poured for 10 hours as we lived on Summer Song while Corfu Yacht Yard cleaned and painted her hull. * * * e-mail from my friend in the Middle East:
Dear Simon Since I was a secondary school student, I was dreaming of the heavy rain of London. I like rain very much, especially when it mixes with the odour of soil. It reminds me of my childhood, my dreams, and my early mature ideas about the universe, the other sex and the unseen. Rain in London must be special, but so it used to be in Iraq. Now I am afraid that rain is only reminiscent of God's wrath, and the deterioration of the quality of our environment. My heart was beating and my feeling of the approach of the date when Birmingham will send me the offer was mixed with a devastating disappointment by the recent incidents that took place in Glasgow and London. My wife and I condemned the awful attempts of the terrorists to disturb the life in UK even before we were thinking of going there. Now our condemnation must be doubled. I really hate such ungrateful people who bite the hands that extend support, peace and love to them. Islam has nothing to do with those people. Political, cultural or religious positions must find more human and peaceful means to express themselves. Please, accept my apology on behalf of my culture and religion. I am aware that these incidents may complicate matters for me but this is not new to me. When I graduated from the Department of English in 1992, I ranked first among my colleagues. There was a cultural exchange programme running between Iraq and the UK at that time and all first rated students were awarded scholarships to the UK. My name was at the top of the list. But the UK diplomatic relations were suspended with Iraq when Saddam ordered the execution of a UK citizen from an Iranian origin who was accused of being a spy for the UK. The whole programme was cancelled and I lost the chance of studying in the UK. See how I am accustomed to mishaps. Today, I received a welcome note (brochure) sent by Birmingham University. Does this mean any progress in my application? Please, again accept my sincere apology and condemnation of what is happening in the UK these days. Best Regards ****
Dear xxxx I appreciate your generous intentions in offering apologies on behalf of your culture and religion but I simply cannot accept them. I could only consider accepting apologies for what has been happening if I felt there were some measure of blame or culpability that could be attached to you, your culture or your religion. I do not. My only concern was the possibility that the net of suspicion, being cast wider, would hinder your plans to study here after local circumstances have made it impossible, because of present dangers to you and your family, of continuing to serve your countrymen as an educationalist and academic. This is a misfortune that is outside my experience and anything I will continue to do as much as I can to mitigate and ease your transition to an academic position here. I don’t know if the welcome brochure means anything more than that you are in a queue whose existence is known to the university. On that score you should question xx xx. (I will ask him myself as well). Here the rain continues though we hear there is some probability of improvement by the weekend. My 90 year old mother in the Highlands of Scotland is in the middle of moving her possessions to a new house a few miles from the larger house that she decided to sell. I am impressed with the energy she’s bringing to this transition from a home she occupied for 40 years to a smaller bungalow. Luckily she has various loyal helpers to deal with the carrying and the storing and we will be going up to Scotland shortly to visit and see her settling in her new house. Tomorrow we have our annual “Classroom in the Park” The above URL is of an earlier event before our local park was improved. Many schools arrive with hundreds of children to perform songs and dances and recitals and I am in charge of a stand which displays a history of the park, available to answer questions from teachers and children. I hope the rain is not too strong! Kind regards, Simon
* * * DEFRA NEWS RELEASE Ref: 201 /07 Date: 2 July 2007
Flood response efforts 'magnificent' says Benn Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, today reiterated the Government’s commitment to supporting communities affected by flooding in many parts of England. In a statement to Parliament Mr Benn paid tribute to the heroic efforts of the emergency services, local authorities, voluntary sector, military, and Environment Agency, describing their collective response as magnificent. With more heavy rain forecast for the coming weekend he encouraged householders and businesses to make use of the Environment Agency’s Floodline telephone number and website for advice. Mr Benn also took the opportunity to confirm an increased flood defence settlement in the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007...

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Simon Baddeley