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Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Searching for the petition from Ano Korakiana

This book- The British and the Hellenes: Struggles for Mastery in the Eastern Mediterranean 1850-1960 by Robert Holland and Diana Markides [see Richard Clogg's review in The TLS 20/6/07]- has taken ages to come, but I'm delighted it's at last arrived, having awaited with the same eagerness as once, as a child, I anticipated the insertion through our letter box in Hampstead, weekly comics inside a roll of newspapers for grown-ups. In those days - the 1950s - I could smell the newspaper and especially the print - some of which came off on my hands. This book from Oxford University Press is well made, so even though the modern paper is outside my olfactory range I get a faint smell of the binding glue, at least that's Lin's diagnosis, after I'd passed the pristine book across the kitchen table for her to sniff. First sentence:
Greece, Lord Palmerston once remarked, was an 'emotional word'.
The chapters that especially interest me are those linked to the cover image of a troop of British soldiers emerging from the Old Fortress of Corfu, a watercolour, circa 1850, by George Savage MD. Between pages 13 and 80 are Chapter 2 - Gladstone and the Greeks: The Extraordinary Mission to the Ionian Islands, 1858-1859, and Chapter 3 - The Abandonment of the Ionian Protectorate, 1849-1864. At last I get to learn that Gladstones' journey from England to Corfu lasted from just over a fortnight from 8-24 November 1858 via Vienna relying on train, and steamer down the Adriatic (pp.22-24) and he left Corfu on 19 February 1859 on HMS Terrible for Trieste having toured the Ionian Islands and had talks in Athens during his twelve week visit to Greece. I like these kind of details because although I do not expect a reference in the book to the actual document I seek for Thanasis and Kostas I feel closer to the level of detail that I will need to dig around among primary sources at the Public Record Office at Kew. I think I can get there on 12 March. I phoned this morning and chatted to a friendly librarian. Adrian, who did some swift searches through Colonial Office Records in the ranges suggested to me by Eleni Calligas in her e-mail of 14 January 08:
I would suggest that the best place to look is the High Commissioner's Correspondence at the Colonial Office archive of the Protection, housed in the Public Record Office, now re-named National Archives but still held at the Kew. I would look at the last couple of years, from 1862 onwards - probably starting from CO136/177 to /184. If such a petition does exist and is signed by inhabitants of the village, it would be interesting to identify the local figure of importance, as the initiative probably emanated from there.
He was finding the same things I'd found. The level was too high and I need papers from villages, as described by Thanasis and Kostas in their letter of 5 December '07.
Dear Simon, It is said that before the Union of the Ionian Islands with Greece (1864), inhabitants of Ano Korakiana signed a "paper" asking the British Government to keep the islands under Britain...We have been looking for this paper for years at the Greek archives without result. We wonder if you can help us by searching this paper in British archives (Parliament, Colonies archives, Foreign Office etc). We are sure that one of the names that signed the paper is Panos, Panayiotis or Panagiotis Metallinos (Μετταλινος). He was the 'leader'. A similar paper has been signed by inhabitants of Kinopiastes (another village in Corfu) and one village in Zakynthos island... [Note from the Ano Korakiana website: The oldest families still existing in Korakiana are ... Savvanis (since 1473), Vradis, Mandilas, Ionas, Markos, Metallinos, Laskaris, kaloudis, Linosporis, Reggis, Balatsinos, and finally, Kendarchos and Kefallonitis during the first half of the 16th century.]
I need to turn up with ID and proof of residence and then I can do some searching there and even order copies of documents. I'm not sanguine about finding any of these papers at once. They are reported, orally, as having been delivered to Sir Henry Storks, who, as a career administrator, took over from Gladstone's Extraordinary posting to the role of Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, and stayed in that post until the Protectorate ended in 1863. I don't know if the so-called 'papers' or petitions are in English or Greek or both; in print or writing. * * * I've been travelling, as usual, for work - London, Cardiff, Brighton, Stafford, Lowestoft, Norwich in the last few days. A glossy brochure (page 8) for my May workshop in Australia has arrived describing a session at the LGMA national conference at Gold Coast. I'm introducing a workshop called IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO: GETTING THE POLITICAL-MANAGEMENT LEADERSHIP ROLES RIGHT:
Executive leadership in local government requires a recognition of the ambiguity, confusion and tension that arises at the overlapping boundaries of political and managerial spheres of action. In this workshop designed for elected officials and senior managers, Simon will show video extracts from a small sample of chief executive and elected member conversations to explain how politicians and managers in the UK jointly create government - a perennial puzzle of increasing consequence for the sector.'
* * * Meantime several local concerns have arisen over Handsworth Park and Black Patch Park, at recent evening meetings of my neighbours. The community centre on the Black Patch has been closed down but ill-secured for over 18 months so that footballers have no changing room and there's no meeting space for local groups to meet. An e-mail from our secretary, Andrew:
Hi Simon. Sue contacted me this morning about the community centre and I've been down myself this afternoon to have a look. Someone has been inside and broken windows from the inside - also Sue reported evidence that someone has tried to set the building on fire. She has been in touch with Sandwell MBC and the Fire Service. I couldn't get in so the doors appear to be secure but entry via the roof might still be possible. Sue is wondering whether we ought to contact the press about this. Sandwell haven't made any attempt to repair the damage to the roof or taken adequate measures to secure the windows and doors. Our fears are that the damage to the building will become beyond repair! Best Wishes Andrew
While I've agreed, at a meeting of the Handsworth Park Association, last night, to try to get a local councillor to arrange a meeting with the developer and other interested parties over the extended delays in laying out seven acres of private green space to pass on to Birmingham City Council. Here's the basis for a draft letter to Cllr. Kim Brom:
Dear Cllr. Brom. I wonder if you can arrange, as a matter of urgency, a meeting with the developer of the housing on the Victoria Jubilee Allotment, our Community Planning Officer, the Chair of Handsworth Cricket Club, the member of the City's executive who has allotments and sport in their portfolio and the relevant Scrutiny Chair. Graham Winfield, current Chair of the Handsworth Park Association, phoned me in Corfu, saying how concerned he was at the delayed arrival of the very much needed extra sports facilities on the VJA site that were going to be handed over to the city on conclusion of the 106A. As it is a large area of valuable green space - grass seeded with some remaining hedgerows is just sitting there. I was well aware the implementation of the planning gain deal was delayed. The developer was claiming the agreement included a provision to delay laying out the allotments, playing fields and other elements of the agreed plan until they had disposed of 40 units of the 80 houses on the site. By last July they had sold 20 (their figures and these may not be accurate now). This provision was not confirmed by the Planning Department. The matter is complicated by the change of developer (under terms I don't know) from Westbury to Church Homes. I've raised this matter twice at Ward Area sub and other meetings. During 2007 we've had the continuing problem of the 'green pathway' that was agreed as being integral to the original plan but which cannot connect the site to the Park because there's a 'hostage strip' of private land between the fence and the park where that gate should be. It is the garden of one house garden designed in by the developer which effectively means we have a public gate to nowhere and therefore makes the path impossible - so that what we feared and spoke strongly against, is a separation between the Park and the VJA site's recreational resources, and indeed the link between the park and the new housing. I understand the city planning department is, for the moment, not budging on this and even Alan Orr is unhappy about it. What the committee make of it when it is presented to them I don't know and perhaps a 'fudge' has been privately agreed that we don't know about. There's problem brewing here. The worst case involves the developer goes broke or selling to another developer who then lobbies to have more of the site to build cheaper homes so they can make what they view as a workable profit from the site. Meantime the community loses not only the land already built on, but yet more green space, and the planning gain deal is rejigged to provide fewer allotments and sports space and the project to bring new allotments and sports space into the area as part of Handsworth Park, is delayed for years...
* * * Just before I left the house where we'd had our meeting I saw a dark hard-wood bust of an African woman, along with other items that Dlci told me came from an artist friend in Kenya. As I examined the bust, she showed me privately taken colour photographs of people lying dead in their church in pools of dried blood following one of the violent episodes spreading across Kenya. The art is a from a Kenyan friend. The photos were sent by her to raise money and to show what has happened to her neighbours and relatives. I thought, in my safety, of Kevin Andrews' reference to murder driven by :...uncritical, unquestioning adherence to the revolting shame of lesser people’s stupidity, cynicism and cheapness.' (p.185 The Flight of Ikaros) * * * One of my mentor texts came in useful the other day when I was arguing about what could and couldn't be taught about political awareness in government. I said I'd learned from the Meno about problems of teaching things no-one can satisfactorily define. "But" I said "you can demonstrate its existence" "I'll accept that" he said. "Conversation helps" I said "and knowledge". The Meno patently indicates Socrates' courage; the vexation amounting to rage his words induced in some, and the danger he faced for being so persistently awkward. With Meno, the young man in the eponymous dialogue about the impossibility of teaching virtue, is sometimes uncomfortable, but there's respect even amid Meno's bewildered consternation, but, near its conclusion, the Democrat Antyus is drawn into the dialogue. Socrates had been arguing that even Thucydides for all his qualities could not teach his children to be good:
SOCRATES: Now, can there be a doubt that Thucydides, whose children were taught things for which he had to spend money, would have taught them to be good men, which would have cost him nothing, if virtue could have been taught. Will you reply that he was a mean man, and had not many friends among the Athenians and allies? Nay, but he was of a great family, and a man of influence at Athens and in all Hellas, and, if virtue could have been taught, he would have found out some Athenian or foreigner who would have made good men of his sons, if he could not himself spare the time from cares of state. Once more, I suspect, friend Anytus, that virtue is not a thing which can be taught. ANYTUS: Socrates, I think that you are too ready to speak evil of men: and, if you will take my advice, I would recommend you to be careful. Perhaps there is no city in which it is not easier to do men harm than to do them good, and this is certainly the case at Athens, as I believe that you know. SOCRATES: O Meno, think that Anytus is in a rage. And he may well be in a rage, for he thinks, in the first place, that I am defaming these gentlemen; and in the second place, he is of the opinion that he is one of them himself. But some day he will know what is the meaning of defamation, and if he ever does, he will forgive me. Meanwhile I will return to you, Meno..
At no point in this conversation has Socrates spoken evil, though Antyus had already reiterated contempt for Sophists - paid teachers of wisdom. How I loath sentences that include "if you take my advice", let alone the barely veiled threat "I would recommend you to be careful. Perhaps there is no city in which it is not easier to do men harm..."
[The images illustrating 'conversation' and 'knowledge' are from my research on the 'construction of trust' between politicians and administrators in government. They are in the public domain with permission from participants]

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Simon Baddeley