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Tuesday, 15 July 2008

On Democracy Street with Richard and Amy

It's good having Richard and Amy here, walking the same places and meeting the same people - in the village and the town. Low, compared to Iraq, we're still unused to this heat. It can catch late risers, like my family, unawares. Having got ‘Summer Song’ ready, I’ve thought of sailing but realised I’d need to desert the house, cycle down to Ipsos, and set out before dawn to enjoy six hours between about 4.00 and 10.00, mooring or anchoring in a north facing cove in the heat of the day. . “Why do so many people here sit outside all evening?” asked Amy yesterday. Summer in the Mediterranean in a village with inhabitants who find personal climate control expensive – or even unnecessary - is unfamiliar. Richard relies on a fan; recalls coping with humid heat in Thailand. This morning, up at 7.30, I opened windows and shutters to get a steady morning breeze through our lower rooms. Upstairs Lin sleeps by a fan. Amy, on a mattress in the upstairs sitting room, has A/C, with windows shut. I did a little washing up, put away cutlery and plates, took in the washing and listened to the neighbours chatting from their doors and looked over my e-mail news. * * * Joel Crawford has circulated a Paul Harris op-ed about the people and the ideas affected by rising oil costs:
‘The worst hit parts of the US are…the small towns that dot the Great Plains, Appalachia and the rural Deep South…people in these isolated and poor areas are reliant on cheap petrol…Stories abound of agricultural workers unable to afford to get to the fields and of rural businesses going bust. Even farmers are not immune. They might not need a car to get to their fields but their fertilisers use oil-based products whose prices have gone through the roof. A handful have started using horses again for some tasks, saving petrol on farm vehicles...’ Harris ends by noting the visit of Chinese government officials, one of many delegations from the Far East and South America, to an Arizona suburb near Phoenix. surveying with approval ‘the luxurious car-driven suburban lifestyle on display…Even as America is sobering up from its excess of cheap oil, other parts of the world…want homes far from dirty city centres, huge open roads and fast cars…a beguiling vision of freedom, mobility and bountiful riches’. Meanwhile American suburbs begin to display problems long associated with their inner cities, and once-abandoned downtowns enjoy ‘a remarkable renaissance’.
And in the NEAL PEIRCE COLUMN Sunday, July 6, some thoughts on ‘metropolitics’:
So Americans bedeviled by $4-plus-a-gallon gas want more transportation choices? They have no idea of what real choices are. For a taste of our necessary future - driven by rapid energy cost inflation and climate emergencies - check the streets of Amsterdam. Sure, cars still function here. But by our standards, their numbers are remarkably modest. Especially on center city streets, another king reigns: the bicycle. Bikes, indeed, swarm around by the thousands…Bikes, overall, account for 37 percent of Amsterdam transport. Public transit accounts for 22 percent of trips. On top of regular and high-speed rail, there's a massive light rail network - 50 miles of tram lines, with many stops, dense in center city, radiating out to neighborhoods and suburbs with cross-connecting lines too. Recently freight tram cars began running through the city, cutting truck use (and pollution). And Amsterdam has added three new subway lines since its first in 1976. So what's the Amsterdam game plan? For decades it's been to nurture the ‘compact city’, slowing a middle-class exodus and preserving the open landscape by dense development, recycling old industrial areas and intermingling uses. Reducing auto use -- now just 41 percent of trips compared to 90 percent-plus in most US cities -- is the heart of the plan.
* * * Down at Ipsos harbour it was gusting F6 from the west. I cycled down from Ano Korakiana - a pleasant ride - and began taking off sails and packing up the boat again since we have to be away to England Thursday morning. Richard scootered down to help with the main. The foresail must wait until the wind lessens as it must be unfurled before lowering and I don't fancy wrestling with a sail that big in this wind - whistling over a blue blue sea churning up wavelets. Well reefed we'd enjoy sailing in this but I still lack confidence in myself and 'Summer Song'. I hope we - Richard and me - can go sailing in September and perhaps go further afield than Lin and I have been so far. * * * Riding tomorrow. Out with Alex K all yesterday - enjoying calamares at Benitses and talk and insights on local history and the challenge of implementing a Greek Land Registry - via the Hellenic National Cadastre - to set up a legal framework for adjudicating state and municipal property, define forest and coastal zones, and resist encroachment and unauthorized development of land.

Kathimerini 18 July 08: The long process of entering millions of properties on Greece’s first comprehensive land register started with a mad rush yesterday as some 30,000 people are estimated to have visited 75 offices where the necessary paperwork can be submitted. It is estimated that some 3 million Greeks will have to register their properties over the coming months and years. However, the process is beginning with the owners of properties in 107 areas around the country. The scheme has been highly publicized in recent weeks and this led to thousands of people gathering at the main office in Syntagma to either submit documents or find out more. “We estimate that a total of 400-500 applications, related to about 1,000 title deeds, were submitted,” said the head of the Syntagma office, Alexandros Velissarios. “The number of people who congregated here was at least 10 times as many as the number of applications. And they were not just from Athens but from all over Greece.” A total of 4,800 applications were submitted at land registry offices yesterday. Another 3,700 were submitted to, a website which gives information in English as well as Greek about how the cadastre will work. The amount of people gathering at the offices yesterday caused frustration among the queuing public, as some people had to wait for up to three hours. There were complaints that people who had not completed their forms beforehand were allowed to do so while others waited. Others moaned that it was not clear what documents were needed. However, despite the fact that information sheets were readily available to anyone making general inquires, many of the people waited in line to speak to staff to learn more.

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Simon Baddeley