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Saturday, 21 February 2009

A beautiful place to wake up in the morning

From Simon - Feb 14, 2009 4:48 AM - to C in America
Dear C. So glad to hear from you…We live amid a crisis none of us has encountered before. Life seems fine for us but all around storm clouds seem to be gathering and many more are clearly caught up in the effects of this historic economic hurricane – one that I realise has been brewing a long time. Kindest regards, Simon
From C:
Dear Simon, Same here; we are feeling nothing yet except for a freezing in University contributions to our retirement funds. Otherwise, we are waiting to find out the impact of lending restrictions on our enrolments and in the meantime...firing some of our adjuncts. The times lend themselves to philosophical reflection. All this unreality that we have been living in - here in America at least - has hit bottom. A good thing but not one that rewards prudent people. Enjoy Corfu. Greece, no matter what, is a beautiful place to wake up in the morning...My very best to you, C
The sun came up into a cloudless sky. It’s so bright and hazy, but for the crackle of the awakened logs I’d mistake this winter morning for summer. Yesterday as we pottered on tasks I became so chilled I began to sniffle. By evening I was squeezing fresh lemons to mix with honey to warm in a glass. We’d been down to CJs Bingo Quiz in the evening, me in two undervests and long johns, to struggle with questions that were almost entirely about things in films and TV series. Our friend Trish, in CJs after cold day’s work cleaning charter boats at Gouvia, won. She was playing with Sally who runs CJs for Chrissie and John (CJs!), also there - the latter cursing merrily to the delight of all. Trish is married to Dave, met at Ipsos Harbour in the first hour of our arrival in September 2006, who first raised our spirits as we surveyed Summer Song’s worn and musty interior, wondering if we’d been sensible buying her on ebay, sight unseen. “We’ll make a list” he said “Norman and Pauline loved that boat and she’s worth it”. And so she was and is. Dave keeps an eye on Summer Song – not only on the boat but also on the harbour politics that allow us to keep her safely berthed there. C remarked from far away on the Pacific coast. “Enjoy Corfu. Greece, no matter what, is a beautiful place to wake up in the morning" but I’m as superstitious as any atheist about reflections on the rewards of fortunae. The names of people who rejoice in their luck are selected by a divine factotum and placed face-down on a gilded dish that passes around the table on timeless Olympus. Amid merriment, each God selects the human whose fate it is to be their post-prandial plaything. Here a brilliant climber says “There’s a window for the summit at dawn”; there a mother says “Our child is so perfect”; and over there a father says “There are police officers, a man and a woman, at the door. Must be about those parking fines”; and here a wife who says “no need to hold the ladder darling. Go and make us a cup of tea”; and there, in the deep ocean, an exhausted sailor says “We’re through the worst” but see this one, here’s a gem “The war will be over by Christmas”, but what about that popinjay Confederate General who said “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…” Far below a fisherman on the Peneios and a woman waiting for a train at Litokhoro know they hear, not the rumble of endless thunder reverberating among the peaks of Olympus, but laughter. This matter of chance, accident, luck, fortunae - what Machiavelli said was vital to political art, treating luck – good and bad – as an asset rather than as something to be eliminated by actuarial calculation, or in today’s term ‘risk assessment’... A lot of us seem unable to assess risk, unable to let their children set out alone to explore the world for fear of abduction, terrified of what’s widely referred to as ‘stranger danger’ by those encouraging their fears. The greater risk to children and indeed adults is not 'out there' but in the home. Most sexual assault is done by people known to their victim - friends and relatives. To avoid risk to life and limb one of the safest places is a metal tube 30k feet in the sky travelling at 600mph. Review the RoSPA annual accident statistics and see the bloodbath associated with home repairs and gardening; realise that DIY is a lot more dangerous than the IRA ever was; that serial killers are less dangerous than ladders; the terrible great white shark, a pussy cat compared to the average family saloon car when it comes to killing. Many more in Ulster have died under cars than from all the troubles there since the 60s, and perhaps Wall Street rather than Islamic jihad has produced our most dangerous terrorists. What makes the gods laugh at us humans must be those of us who stayed at home in bed on Friday 13th (Tuesday 13th in Hellas) but slipped fatally in the lavatory. The most dangerous place for most of us is our kitchen – being full of relatives who commit the most murders against one another, especially when surrounded by all that weaponry, but we do enjoy Corfu and wholeheartedly agree that 'Greece, no matter what, is a beautiful place to wake up in the morning.' * * * On the matter of risk assessment, no greater debunker of current panics is John Adams who's just been asked to talk at a Cambridge Science Festival titled 'The World Under Assault: Can Science Beat Terrorism?' to which Adam's initial rejoinder is:
No: because paranoia cannot be cured by CCTV, or DNA databases, or ID cards, or CRB checks, or number plate recognition, or GPS tracking, or email archiving, or data mining.

to which he adds:

Further, I intend to argue that the combined force of all of these measures feeds the threats that they purport to defend against...
This is a thinker I prefer to Slavoj Žižek, adored by so many starry eyed academics starved for intellectual bling and a bit of mystification amid the bean-counting world of academia.


  1. Hello.

    I'm afraid this isn't about your post but I'm wondering if you would be able to help with some nature information.

    I have a blog called PICTURES JUST PICTURES, where I post a photo each day, mostly, but not exclusively to do with some aspect of plants life and the landscape.

    Yesterday, I posted a photograph of a rookery in winter and someone asked about country lore which suggests if rooks build their nexts high it indicates a good summer will follow.

    I've not heard this before and she also commented that it seems to her that rooks always build their nests high. It seems to me too that they always build them in the same place. But neither of us really know.

    Because I know of your childhood with Jack Hargreaves, I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on this, either about the country lore itself, or the facts of the matter.

    I know it's a bit of a nerve to ask - but I can't think of anyone else who might know.

    I see you have comment moderation in action. Because this question doesn't relate to your blog, you may not want to let it through to there but, if you were able to give us some enlightenment, I would be really grateful.

    The link to the rookery photo is

    Many thanks.

    Lucy Corrander

  2. I've little recollection of Jack talking about rooks and seasons, though talking to a metropolitan neighbour in Dorset who, vexed by the way they woke him up on Sunday mornings, was shooting into a rookery by his house, my stepfather did manage to discourage this by telling him what good luck went with having a rookery next door, and what ill-luck was supposed to attend their departure. I recall that rooks are supposed to be especially talkative when some event - good or bad - is about to occur to humans in their vicinity. I wonder if Esther Woolfson who's recently written a book on rooks, ravens, magpies and jackdaws, could help. She has a blog called Corvus


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Simon Baddeley