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Thursday, 24 September 2009

The village band is going to Thessaloniki

Mr Leftheris and his married daughter, Natasha, mother of Dimitra
'Our' band - The Spyros Samaras Philharmonic Society of Ano Korakiana - leaves from Corfu town via Igoumenitsa on Friday morning to play in Thessaloniki. The village will be missing its young for a weekend. There was bustle in the bandroom above the clinic last night and yesterday morning Natasha, the Leftheri’s daughter, was polishing her daughter Dimitra’s helmet in preparation for the journey.
The shutters we bought are installed but for one problem. Alan had suggested they’d fit better if the hinge straps were bent back straight. When he did it on one of the jambs with a sturdy wrench it worked fine. When I did it the hinge socket broke its weld.
“No no no no! Why me?” I plead. I get out my mobile…“Alan?” (plaintive phone call and explanation) “Bring it over and I’ll weld it back for you. Simple.” “Thank you Alan – so much”. This heartfelt gratitude for another's abilities I lack, so reminds me of my exchanges with my stepfather and with those friends I have who can do joinery, plumbing, welding, electrics, plastering, roofing and - just name it – craftsmanship, manual skill – sometimes demeaningly recommended for those not 'suitable' for the professions or for academic work. Twaddle on stilts. Yet installed in popular assumption like the ‘tradesman’s entrance’ on houses, a bizarre turn in our mental archaeology, though by no means original - consider the long fingernails of the mandarins to show they didn't work with their hands. Pathetic. How I envy the talents of carpenters and farmers and admire myself when I achieve something that at least approximates their craft – like the cypress floor we’ve restored here, the banisters and - until I broke the hinge - hanging these shutters – and I haven’t even mentioned knitting, sewing, embroidery, weaving, more skills that should be part and parcel of being educated along with reading, writing, keyboarding , drawing, painting and making music. I found Alan at the bottom of his rambling garden working amid organised chaos - one of his favourite ideas.
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"Mr Simon!" A gentleman called out from outside our house this morning and delivered a handwritten note from Nico, one of our neighbours a few metres up Democracy Street. It was a suggestion visit - where among other interesting things there was an old colour film from British Pathé - a short sketch of Corfu in 1962. It was made when I was twenty, the same summer I sailed from England to Greece and back in Danica with two friends.
* * *
Flashbacks to C.P.Snow on campus politics, in this case reading a flurry of shared email exchanges circulating proposals and debate on the future of where I work:
The Review Group recommends that INLOGOV reviews its use of Associates as soon as possible with a view to:
1. formalising relationships with those Associates whose contribution furthers the core academic mission;
2. initiating a process of disengagement from those Associates whose contribution does not further the core academic mission; and
3. mitigating against over-dependence on these individuals.
A colleague’s comment:
The Review Group proposed the mission statement: ‘to create, disseminate and evaluate academic insight that enhances the politics, policy and strategic management of local government’ … If we are to tinker with it - and I think there may be argument to run with it for a while, given that it's now been approved (subject to consultation?) by the university executive board - then I'd simply insert 'democratic' before 'politics' in this statement…
Email from another colleague:
Hi Simon. Have just got back from 'the meeting’ … if you stick to the idea that you quite like the thrust of the mission statement, and that it represents an endeavour to which you and your work already make a key contribution and would continue to in the future … Hope all that's somewhat reassuring…we can chat… when you return. All best wishes, C
The morningscape shifts towards autumn. On 1 October we return to England to work in Birmingham. Seldom has a sojourn here seemed to pass so quickly, filled with many things including concerns about change at home and anticipation - pleasurable - of work through November in Australia, with John Martin, where the weather moves towards summer, and where I read news of red sand coating Sidney and the land around.
* * *
Alan's refixed the broken hinge which had been held by a tiny strip of faulty weld. Perhaps it's a good thing it went when it did. The shutters are looking good - after a little more careful bending of the hinge straps and sanding of the wood frame above - though we'll need to sand and apply deep Corfu green instead of that blue, more typical of the Aegean. I'll add an iron peg top and bottom on which to close the doors.

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Simon Baddeley