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Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Πέρα δόθε

Lin finishes tiling half the apothiki roof before we go
We told Katerina we were off to England. She smiled and gestured back and said "Πέρα δόθε" (Pera thothe). "To and fro" is what she was saying explained Nancy later, helping me, at last, to grasp the difference between 'δ' and 'θ' - a hard 'th' and a soft 'th' respectively, "... if you want to say 'd' you put two letters together - 'ντ'." But Katerina was commenting on our transience, the way we are always going to and fro, here and there. We're not ex-pats who've left UK to reside in Greece but nor are we passing visitors. We spend too much of our time working on our house in Ano and our boat in Ipsos. I have a liking for the habit of transhumance, when people move from one home to another with the seasons. They migrate - back and forth. I enjoy the way seafarers, after a time on land, get a yen to go to sea again, as in the voyages of Sinbad the sailor and the first paragraph of Melville's Moby Dick, or Tennyson's Ulysses. Lin found an oar discarded by the shore. We took it back to the house. "Ulysses, sick of the sea, said he was going to place an oar over his shoulder and walk inland until he met someone who said 'what's that?' and there he'd settle down and make his home." We know he never would. When I checked my memory of this story I found it wasn't quite like this. The seer Tiresias told Ulysses he would take an oar inland until someone mistook it for a winnowing fan. There's no way in Greece, or England, you could walk so far from the sea. [Odysseus Elytis: 'God my master builder you built me into the mountains; God my master builder, you enclosed me in the sea' - from 'Ena to chelidoni' in Axion Esti]
As we left the house this morning young Mrs Leftheri held a large paperback volume at an upper window "Ὅμηρος (Omeros)" she said "Oh yes yes!" I replied "You know Homer said the world was so beautiful that had he not been blind he'd have been unable to write." (Mrs L speaks English well enough to take my meaning). "But Dimitra doesn't enjoy having to read him at school." "Nor me. School isn't the best place to read Homer. I came to value him when I could discover him for myself, but school introduced me to him." Mrs L, her mother, one floor down, let me photograph her at her balcony with her flowers. "See you in August." Goodbye. Cala taxidi, cala taxidi, kisses and waves and we were off to the airport.Our plane took off in sun, our pilot apologising for "taking you away from this beautiful island." After a three hour snoozing flight - for some of the time Lin's head on my lap, my hand on her hip - we landed smoothly at Gatwick under grey mist. I needed to dig my tweed jacket and raincoat from my hold baggage. We took a train to London; a coach to Birmingham via the M40. Amy, and her fiancé, Guy, met us at Digbeth and drove us home to sift a pile of mail, share sausages and chips and see Oscar dog again and enjoy Obama's speech to the White House Press Association - references I missed filled in for me by Richard, and the investigative achievement of free-lancer, Heather Brooke, in uncovering the corrupt expense claims of so many British parliamentarians - MPs and Peers - and, for me, the new meaning of 'flipping' (thoughts on corruption earlier in the blog 'the horror')
On the 402 National Express Coach to Birmingham - a view from the contentious Westway of expensive apartments backing onto Brunel's main line route to the west and the District Line Underground. As a child on the train, going to and fro from boarding school at Westminster for a late Saturday-Sunday break to our home in Bagnor near Newbury, I would glimpse, in the smoky air, string upon string of washing hung out from the same buildings - then sootened tenements.
In the mail awaiting us was a communication from Birmingham City Council's Allotments Team about the Victoria Jubilee Allotments (VJA). £9 a year seems absurdly cheap rent for 200 square yards of good agricultural land in Handsworth, until I think of the work done campaigning since the early 1990s to stop all of that land being built over. E-mail dated 11 May '09:
Dear Simon. On Friday I received the first newsletter from the BCC Allotments Team to all the people who have registered an interest for a plot at the VJA, I assume when you get home you will have one waiting for you, there is an intent for works to be completed in July and then for a meeting to be arranged for people to go on site and express their preference regarding the plot that they would like. More detail on the letter. See you and Lynn on Sunday. Best Rachel
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New Street, Birmingham
Richard at the Bullring Market

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Simon Baddeley