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Tuesday, 28 August 2007

'The fate every people makes for itself...'

At the cottage with Lin, Dot and Arthur and Oscar over the Bank Holiday weekend, glimpsing the news from Greece. We shall be there in less than a week. Authorities in Greece have referred to a 'culture of arson.' The world watches these flames. I read, somewhere - Athens News - that George Seferis approved the Cretan maxim: 'The fate every people makes for itself, and the things its own madness does to it, are not things done by its enemies.'
[Back to the future: There were many such pictures at the time, but I replaced the one I had here originally and on 15/12/07 replaced it with this even worse one that I came across in a blog by Black Rabbit visiting Kephalonia in August 07]
I walked most of the way from Ross to Lydbrook on Saturday along the roughly outlined route of the long disused railway line from Ross, cooling my feet in the Wye at Kerne bridge. On Sunday I walked from the car-boot sale (see below) at Coleford to home via Edge End, where I lay in a stony meadow dotted with blackthorn on Bell Hill looking over Herefordshire towards the hills above Abergavenny. On Monday we went to Parkend Carnival and I walked home north through the busy woods, Oscar running joyfully to and fro. Being holiday time the sound of motors, like drills in a cathedral, pervades the forest like a distant waterfall, loudened by the staccato of accelerating motorbikes and the clattering diapason and hissing brakes of occasional supertrucks heedless of weekends, with, overall, the rumble of holiday jets and the closer throb of a helicopter passing over the oaks and beeches.
Water is leaking at the main stopcock above the cottage, filling the narrow housing above the tap. The sound of running water can be heard indoors. I showed the stopcock to our neighbour Craig and he said he’d get a plumber friend to have a look. Another neighbour, Clive, says it's not a leak at at all but the running of springs flowing stronger from weeks of rain. Our other neighbour came round; Kirstie and her new daughter – blond and just starting to be shy at strangers – and chatted for a while and met Ian, her new neighbour in the Cider Mill and Tony and Jane who’ve moved into the Brambles by the road. How the population of Bell Hill has changed in two years! All but Craig have e-mails and we promised to stay in touch. If Amy gets the job she wants she hopes to be posted to Gloucestershire, so she can live on Bell Hill. We’ve not been at the cottage enough and it would be good to see her move there. We slept well and felt dry and comfortable, but the place needs attention. Lin and I have cut back brambles - collecting a good measure of blackberries - and we've trimmed the wild rose. I’ve cleared a fallen ash branch and scraped moss and weed from the stone steps. “There’s loads of rubbish that shouldn’t be here, but it wants sorting!” says Lin. How I hate sorting. I just want to bag it all up and dump it out of sight and then choose what we really want. Down in the village several acres of an old industrial area, long used to park trucks and bash metal, are being cleared to build forty new homes. This morning the noise of the diggers was continuous. This car boot sale is a popular market in the Forest of Dean, held in a field just outside Coleford every Sunday morning, attracting hundreds of stalls and probably thousands of customers - whose cars spread out across the rest of the field. It's 20p to park. Lin and my mother-in-law delight in it. Here's Lin bargaining over a carpet which she got for £4.00, and later a 'lovely Turkish rug' for £3. The contents of a car boot sale, were some catastrophe like the eruption of Vesuvius to descend burying everything beneath a layer of ash, would suggest many things about our culture - our videos, DVDs, popular books, DIY tools, toys, crockery, pottery, tableware, electrical goods, old agricultural tools, vegetables, plants, pictures, kitchenware, TV's, video players, fridges, washers, curtains, blankets, chairs, sporting goods - but no alcohol, cigarettes or live animals or firearms. Every now and then you come across delightful finds - a piece of unidentified silver, beautifully illustrated book from the 1920 or earlier, a very nice old carpet. I've been reading Elizabeth Longford's 1976 biography of Byron and beginning to get a picture of how he sailed to Greece in the Hercules with funds to support the Greek fight for Independence and how in his 37th year he fell ill and died on Easter Day 1824 at Mesolonghi. I was giggling, inwardly, at the thought of a passing chat with Lord Byron about the possibility of introducing Structure Plans into Greek land use policies as a way of preventing the use of fires to make land available for building. It could be argued that Byron didn't do local government, but then seeing the way he sought to create an alliance of warring interests against the Turks suggests his feels for the art of politics once fire burned in his belly for Greece was sound enough. He knew the importance of gesture. He was a genius of rhetoric. He made men's hearts leap. His love for Greece was undeniable. This charismatic limping wordsman - none of whose works I've read. Childe Harold. Don Juan. Pleasures to come? I am finding out about the tension, from the earliest days of the fight for the Greek Independence, between the klephts, brigands, warriors who wanted to drive out the Turks and take to themselves their powers, and the Constitutionalists and what we'd now call administrators and even managerialists, who wanted to see a Modern Greek State, progressive, liberal, well-run - an example to the world - but while not lacking courage had no spirit for leading a military insurgency. I just bet this tension is alive and well in Greece to this day and has informed the history of modern Greece. * * * E-mail from George in Corfu: Mon, 27 Aug 2007 21:42:56 +0300
Hi Lynn, Sorry taken so long, actually been busy on boat for last two weeks. Not full trips, but anything is better than nothing. Temperatures here been very hot for past two weeks, 40-43c, and same at end of July so never got much done up house. Patio area and seat around orange tree finished in garden. Orange tree got loads of branches, but not sure if it will ever gain height. Still, very green an leafy. I put two plants from top garden in border around the patio, when I shifted the soil down. I don't know what they are, but they are big, and growing up Lefteris' fence. The ditch is fully overgrown with something, probably weeds, but look like a hedge. Steps down into the garden have been finished, so all outdoor work has been completed. Had all the building rubble removed, as could not get any more under the patio for foundation. That was 3 cubic tonnes. Hired in some help (see below) to shift it and had a truck come and pick it up. Bourganvilla is in full bloom around the yard entrance, smells and looks nice. Inside arch has been completed. Finally had enough cash to buy a window last week, so that is fitted now. Didn't know if you wanted fly screen like other windows, so put one in anyway. Probably need it anyway as Lefteris' figs are nearly ripe, (overhanging your fence) so will keep flys and jaspers out. Stairway finished, but have left some wires hanging out from the top. These were from the on/off switches in the old wall for the two overhead lights. Not sure where you want these, if installed at all. Whatever, will not take long. Have buried all old electric wiring from old wall, ceiling section under the ceiling plaster. Finished sanding floor, looks nice, filling in with wood wednesday, then spraying varnish coats on Friday, Sat and Sunday for good finish. Have not done fireplace as did not have enough money to buy marble. Not a big job, can do when you here, but still think you should leave fireplace downstairs to heat whole house. Ben is away at moment, he did a delivery job to Croatia in June and not come back yet, still working his way around Europe. Have put all wood from knocked down walls into apothike for firewood in winter, makes good kindling. Did not have enough cash to get people to empty apothike and have taken away, but can arrange that when you come here if you like. 22 May €35.00 sand and cement for patio 22 May €15.50 breeze blocks for garden feature, angle bead for archway 23 May €13.50 sanding belts for sander 5 Jun €15.50 circular saw blade to cut well 8 Jul €180.00 4 guys to move 3 tonne building rubbish to road in one day, no trouble with Left. 9 Jul €150.00 truck to remove rubble, €50 per tonne 18 Aug €285.00 window 18 Aug €8.50 foam for window 25 Aug €17.00 sand, plaster and asvesti for outside steps 25 Aug €18.45 floor filler, glue, nails sandpaper more foam for window 28 Aug €4.00 sand 28 Aug €13.50 more sand paper for fine finish on floor Total €755.95 Still have to buy varnish Friday, prob about two litres and thinners. Best regards, George and Martin Lin's reply: Hi George and Martin. Thanks for the detailed outline of what's been done in the house and garden. Only a week till we get there to see it! If we go straight to the house, are the electrics ready to work, or would it be better to stay on the boat for a night or two? (We won't be there till late. Monday night, so we'll need lights in the house.) If we leave the stove downstairs, have you any suggestions for where the flue could come out? Obviously we don't want it going up through the roof again! We'll see you early next week to pay what we owe you and talk about the things that still need to be done. Love to all, Simon and Lin George's next: Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 18:33:57 +0000 hi linda. yes electrics work ok, just the two bits of wire i dont know what to do with, quite safe, have put blocks on end so no shocks. house will be clean enough to live in immediately if you want, or you can go on boat, up to you. i am not happy with appearance of wood floor with lots of odd bits in. Would like permission to buy about six matching planks of wood. should not cost more than €30, to make it look better, the bits are all in the middle of the floor and show up quite badly compared to other wood, g

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Simon Baddeley