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Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Village resurrection

Katerina's gift
Clouds on the crags above us and on the mountains to the south, the view toward the sea opaque, glowing with trapped light, puddles in the street, ‘our’ cats sharing a shanty box of Lin’s making, others sheltering under parked cars, the sound of rain on new greenery, on roofs, streaming down the path beside the house, gouting from downpipes, dripping loudly from roof gutters onto the neighbour’s plastic sterna, soaking (or re-rinsing in soft water) Mrs L’s washing and, annoyingly, a succession of slow drips from a join in our stove pipe. “I didn’t need to water the plants last night” said Lin, waking to the change of weather. It’s been pouring steadily since early morning, damping the ashes of Easter barbeques; such forbearance after a Monday as warm and clear as we’ve enjoyed this year. I took John to his plane for Athens (and on to Australia via Heathrow) while it was dark on Monday morning, Annie with us till Wednesday. She and Lin have gone into Corfu town to shop, well dressed for the wet, while I’m trying to complete Jonathan’s bid with a note describing the uses of our proposed research:
Our intervention is oriented towards encouraging user reflection about power relationships in the network arena and the strengths and weaknesses of the network mechanism as a vehicle for citizen empowerment...
From me:
Dear Jonathan. Here are my additions to your draft on impact. I hope you can make sense of them. I’ve also added two files to this e-mail describing the option I’ve taught regularly on our graduate programme in case these are of interest – especially the goals. I like the way you include the iterative and inclusive nature of this approach to capacity building – involving as many as possible, including those filmed, in an exploration of power relations at what may be an asymmetric interface. Sometimes I feel that when it comes to capacity-building I should be focusing on my own experiences of political campaigning – for parks, allotments and earlier involvements – assisted by, for instance, Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and all the guidance on involvement in non-violent public protest associated with such things as the anti-road building campaigns of the early 90s, not to mention all the texts linked to ‘10 Days that Shook the World’ (:)) We are engaged in something that seems like finessed versions of this material. Best S
From Jonathan:
Simon. Thanks for both of these documents. I will update and forward the budget stuff to Jason to work into J-ES, when we'll see where we are. Alinsky's stuff is interesting. Did you see this piece on the G20 protests by George Monbiot? Best J
* * * Yesterday, Easter Monday, I took gifts round to the neighbours and, as usual, returned with more than I’d brought – delicious carrot cake topped with strawberries, soft bread from the church, sweet ouzo soaked figs, and the red egg on which Mrs L had shown me the trick of cracking each end with its twin, saying ‘Kristos Anesti’ at each tap. Mine cracked both ends; hers remained whole. Young Mrs L, over a Greek coffee in their sitting room, mentioned the vexed loss of our side balcony (μπαλκόνι). I asked her the word for ‘stupidity’ – ‘vlahas’ “βλάκας” – and repeated the word with appropriate gestures. “I promise it will be restored” I said, rubbing my finger and thumb with the need-for-money gesture. (I’m determined we should do this). We exchanged animated gestures of astonishment at human folly, muttering “βλάκας” again. “Why take it away?” “Akrivos. Yiati?” I replied (“Ακριβώς. Υιατί;”) “βλάκας” we agreed. “Balcony!” she gestured gently “You say ‘Calimera’ to the street!” Talking about this to Lin, explaining to Annie, how the English builder for the previous English owners had built on the large wooden balcony overlooking a panorama we love, but, in the process, removed the stairs on the side of the house leading to first floor french windows and a smaller balcony that overlooked Democracy Street, the neighbours and the path below - substituting private space for what had been public; especially as, until Lin replanned the upstairs room, the new wooden balcony could only be entered from a bedroom. “We must get a plan and an estimate” I said “I’ll ask around – possibly Thanassis S or Kostas A – might know of a photo from Ano Korakiana archives. There are quite a few old photos on the village website…but this all happened so recently. Hm. I’ll see if Mr Leftheris can do a sketch from memory.” * * *
Map of the village of Ano Korakiana
Koliopoulos and Veremis in their recent history - Greece: The Modern Sequel:
The Greek village, that repository of what city people like to think of as traditional customs and values, has ceased to exist except in the minds of some anthropologists. (p.215)
At about eleven on Monday morning we could hear the band playing somewhere at the foot of the village and so clambered quickly down the path and steps below Sophia and Nico’s house to the junction of the lower road with the Kato road to see the Monday celebration just arriving at the tight corner to assemble briefly, before proceeding eastward in the direction of Agios Markos. How, we wondered can they circle the village this way? Surely they’ll need to double back, but a few hundred yards down, on our left, came a steep small road signed as a cul-de-sac. Saving breath, band, priests, resurrection bier carriers walked swiftly up the incline to a small church we’d not seen before on St Jacob’s Street, which, seeing it’s tiny width off the upper road, we’d thought stopped at a private frontyard. Not so. After greetings, kisses and embraces with a family waiting by the church the procession exited on Democracy Street, at one of its narrowest points among the houses of Venetia – Little Venice - the procession reassembled and with four priests in white plainchanting, then giving way to happy music from the band, headed down through the cypresses, past the defile, to the car park where a choir of women from Fiaikon Demos, in smart suits, joined the parade and inserted - between the band’s playing and the priests’ prayers – a slow ‘Christos Anesti’ hymn, in which others joined, Lin humming its lilting refrain. As with passion we all have our resurrection – a moment of immeasurable happiness – behold I tell you a mystery…brought to heart with sweetly crafted ritual, bridging generations, passed between family, friends and strangers; celebrated in music, song and words - the village’s hope chest. One could do worse on so jocund a morning than amble along Democracy Street, holding hands (“What is it? 36 years you and I’ve been together”), between grassy banks, leafy olives and stone walls, beneath spring-flowered balconies, in the wake of such respectful joy. As the procession returned to the lower road we were amused to smile again at faces we’d passed on the upper road, of people who’d walked through one or another of the many paths that wind between the two chief roads of the village. What had me brimming with content was to feel not quite a stranger “Lin, Annie!” I boasted, “that’s the twelfth person I know well enough to shake hands and say Kronia Polla even if I’m not sure of their name.” Nico on the lower road introduced a friend, touched the centre of his forehead and said “Χέρις!”. I learned later from Nico, who is related to him, that this was Sebastian Metallinos.

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Simon Baddeley