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Saturday, 5 December 2009

Power and sufficiency in the village

I'm in Birmingham Handsworth, and reading about Ano Korakiana via Thanassis' blog, which has 'temporarily' replaced the village website - undergoing maintenance. He mentions a power cut in the village. Thanassis points out, despite the inconvenience that follows the failure of modern technologies of power supply, older sources of light can make for neighbourliness. "Can I have a light - from your fire; from your candles?"
Όμως, όπως το νόμισμα έχει δύο πλευρές, έτσι και η διακοπή του ηλεκτρικού ρεύματος, μας δίνει την ευκαιρία να γυρίσουμε μερικές δεκαετίες πίσω, όταν το ηλεκτρικό δεν υπήρχε ή (όταν πρωτο-εμφανίστηκε) ήταν λιγοστές οι λάμπες στα σπίτια και στους δρόμους...Τότε βέβαια, η έλλειψη ηλεκτρισμού δημιουργούσε πρόσθετες δυσκολίες στην καθημερινότητα, ενώ σήμερα προσθέτει λίγες στιγμές ρομαντισμού, που τόσο λείπουν από την αυτοματοποιημένη εποχή μας…
Something similar happened when water was delivered, and foul water removed directly from individual houses. No more parish pump gossip (deeper ideas here about mother-tongue) - the glue of community, but few will regret the demise of midden heaps, though there's a rich new technology of sewage treatment as part of the sustainable treatment of 'grey' (washers, shower/bath) and 'black' water (toilets and kitchen sinks) that I saw as a guest visiting Mike Hill's and Lorna Pit's ecovillage in Melbourne the other day.
As it is the village - slightly ironically - but in line with current trends in Greece, being gradually attached to a main sewer by contractors to Faiakon Municipality, with foul water being treated at a sewage facility at the base of the village, finally abandoning old wells as soakaway cesspools which aren't happy with loo paper.
This is confusing, taking us forwards but also backwards. While it is beginning to become acceptable and practical to process and re-use waste water locally, Ano Korakiana, and many other places, are getting attached to the mains, even as places like Westwyck are detaching themselves.
There still are reasonably clear, if not potable, water wells in Ano Korakiana. Until twenty or so years ago, these were the main source of drinking and washing water. As more wells became soakaway cesspools the other wells in the village became unreliable. Even today some householders pump water from their wells to get the benefit of unmetered water for their gardens.
We have a cesspool, once a well, at 208 Democracy Street, at garden level below our veranda, by our composter. It works fine, but a main sewer pipe is slowly advancing up beneath Democracy Street. Work had reached the Community Clinic and band room by mid-2009.
I'm not sure yet how and when connections will be made to individual homes, nor how much this will add to our water bills, or indeed whether connection will be compulsory. One worry is that you can meter water coming into the home, but not water going out. There will simply be a fixed charge controlled by the sewage treatment agency. Once we are on a main sewer, and this would involve installing nearly 100 metres of pipe down to the main pipe on the lower road, will it mean that our soakaway cesspool can gradually revert, with similar soakaways, to a well from which we can extract gardening water?
Although alternative technologies are increasingly accessible, we've quite a long way to go before the village moves back to an older, but very different, form of self-sufficiency using modern technologies for harvesting solar energy, capturing and processing rainwater and tapping into wind power; one day even selling excess energy back to the rest of the island, even to the mainland, via a smart grid - things I learned more about at the Energy Futures Conference that John Martin organised in Bendigo in early November, the place I first met Mike Hill, chairing a session in which he participated.
** ** **
In London on Friday morning I enjoyed tutoring and animating half a day in Hounslow on Managing with Political Awareness - an event for nearly 60 officers, joined from mid-morning by some elected members and ending with a half hour Q & A session with CEO Mark Gilks and Cllr Peter Thompson, Leader, who agreed to do a video for me as soon as it can be arranged.
Aims for the seminar
  • to improve understanding of the skills and values involved in political-management working relations in Hounslow,
  • to increase understanding of how political and managerial roles are changing, and how this applies in Hounslow
  • to enrich your vocabulary of political concepts and offer models of competence and integrity in political settings,
  • to assist resolve dilemmas that arise when giving professional support to politically led agendas,
Brief introduction - overview of the morning (& a short icebreaker)
Political-management: negotiating the overlap
Member-officer conversations
Defining political awareness: reading/carrying
Work on critical incidents: facilitated by guest councillors (Cllr Barbara Reid, Cllr John Todd) and tutor
Summary and feedback: Q & A with Cllr Peter Thompson and CEO Mark Gilks
Networking lunch
* * * * Had a planning meeting in Staffordshire for one of three planned seminars on scrutiny. Lucy Stratford has edited a film made with the Leader of the Council, Philip Atkins, and the most senior Scrutiny Chairman, Alan White, which I've sorted into four separate thumbnails - making the film rather more accessible than leaving it on a DVD. Why? Because a DVD runs off the disk not the faster computer hard disk and is not as controllable via the keyboard as an MPG or MOV file - where you can project a picture onto a white wall or large screen and pick and choose between extracts.
For my travels - to London and Stafford - I'm back to relying on my Brompton, avoiding having to pay to take a full size bicycle on the train to London and using the tube to get to and from Hounslow and, back in Birmingham last night, not having to wait by a chilly wet bus stop, cycling home from New Street in 15 minutes after a swift visit to the German Market.
* * * I'm keeping an eye on TeacherDude's citizen journalism and Malcolm Brabant's reporting as we arrive at the anniversary of last year's troubles in Athens and other Greek cities. See also Monday 7 December events in Athens as reported from Australia.
** ** **
Long ago Cheshire County Council, with whom we were running an in-house course on Political Skills for Managers commissioned a mug for each participant. My friend Nina Dawes knew a potter in Walsall who made us about 20. I have one with the Cheshire CC logo and Inlogov on it and the four animals signifying 'wise, clever, innocent and inept' from Kim's and my paper. They might be quite a souvenir one day. My own mug is priceless of course.

1 comment:

  1. Vignettes of London life. I attended a debateconference on energy there Thursday night after flying in from Dublin. Sitting on the tube a large West Indian gentleman opined loudly into his mobile about his "Ras Clart girlfriend" at length. Eventually a large West Indian lady gave him a few home truths. Nervous whites made eye contact with the floor but I couldn't stop giggling.


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Simon Baddeley