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Saturday, 15 May 2010

At Roffey Park

Notes for a talk about political awareness - compressed into an hour and a half for round 14 very bright fast streamers from the MoJ on a shrewdly tailored Leadership Programme at Roffey Park on Thursday morning. I'd been worrying about this session, ever since CD, who'd been CEO of a County Council for which I done work a couple of years ago, had recommended me, now she was working in central government. I'd started with a plan...
This session aims to refine your understanding of political-management dynamics, especially post-election:
assisting you to maintain your knowledge of the political scene (e.g. learning about political environments; staying informed through ‘responsible gossip’)
developing and fine-tuning a feel for the boundaries between political, managerial and professional work (e.g. practical understanding of protocols, conventions and guidelines; analysis of dilemmas that test those boundaries; recognition of ‘danger zones’)
enriching your vocabulary of political concepts (e.g. practical ideas that capture the experience of working in the fuzzy area between management, politics and professionalism. “The English seldom draw a line without blurring it” Winston Churchill)
offering models of competence in politically charged situations (e.g. ‘reading’ and ‘carrying’; integrity and game-playing)
...but in the end, because this was far too much for an hour and a half, extemporised. The memorable thing about the visit to Roffey Park - which I can't repeat on my second visit on 22 June - is that I was there just before and during the first Cabinet meeting of the first hung parliament in the UK in my life. The aptly named Christopher Hope lists reasons for optimism. Boris Johnson writes and speaks of 'a robust and interesting new specimen...a crossbred dog...' that will have 'fantastic hybrid vigour'. I need - needed - no encouragement to share such opinions, especially if they hasten a shift from a two-party system that has invalidated my vote since I was entitled to cast it.
What was especially good about Wednesday evening and Tuesday morning, was to be, for a few hours, in the company of men and women as collected and focused, yet relaxed, amid the intense negotiation and uncertainty of the last few days, as steelworkers around a blast furnace or live-line workers amid a cat's cradle of high voltage cable, or indeed as collected as Alan, as he goes coolly about the work of building our balcony. "Maybe it's possible" Johnson suggested "the British people have done something pretty brilliant."
I spoke more than I should - of reading and carrying and overlapping spaces, of responsible gossip and 'integrity', allowing too little time for conversation around half a dozen critical incidents, but I'm glad of the experience. I've a similar session later in June when we may see more of this novel political landscape. I might show those parts of my films of conversations that make government outside their local context.
** **
Alan, as promised, has sent us first pictures of building done since we left:
Hi, Simon and Lin. After you left I cleaned the area in front of the window and fixed the shuttering for the last two steps. As you can see photo 1 and 2 are ready for the concrete. Photo 5 is the stairs prior to concreting. Photos 3, 4 and 6 shows the concrete in place, wet and sticky. By tomorrow this will be hard enough for the men to install the doors, if they should show up to do it. After the doors are installed I will continue with the surfacing of the steps. It takes a couple of days for the steps to cure and I can only do three steps at a time, so it will probably be another week and a half to have them all finished. And then I can call the metal man to come and measure for the railings. I'll keep you posted with more photos. I hope all went well with your daughter's wedding. Alan
Amy's wedding's not until Monday and I've promised Alan, and others in the village who asked, to post some pictures next week. What Alan's done here - shown in photo 6 - is to begin marrying three remaining treads, one badly chipped, from the old staircase to the new one. ** ** ** I have impeccable excuses for not being there but I'm really vexed at missing the seminar programme in Corfu next week organised by the Durrell School - 'The History and Culture of the Ionian Islands' from 16–21 May 2010. It's programme is described on Jim Potts' blog, the prospectus on the DSC site by Richard Pine. It all looks fascinating but the day I'd especially like to have attended was Tuesday's programme:
10.00 – 11.00 a.m. Session 4
Via or Vita? — The British in the Mediterranean since 1800
11.00 – 11.30 a.m. Break for coffee
11.30–4.30 p.m. p.m. Excursion 2
A visit to the SERBIAN MUSEUM followed by a boat trip (1.30 p.m.) to VIDOS ISLAND where we can see the Serbian Mausoleum, have lunch (2.30 p.m.) and go swimming (optional!). The meze lunch is included for those paying the full registration fee; 12 euros each for others; buy your own drinks).
4.30 – 6.00 p.m. Opportunity to return to your hotel
6.00–8.00 p.m. Session 5
ANTHONY SEYMOUR (paper read in his absence by Anthony Hirst)
How to work the system and thrive: Ionians and pseudo-Ionians in the Levant 1815–1864
The Ionian Islands and the Greek Revolution
‘A history of the peasants printed in gaol’ and other unknown texts by the
1849 Cephalonian rebels imprisoned at Argostoli: a first presentation.
I just hope that the papers circulated afterwards will come my way and I can delve into them, in continuance of my failed, but not fruitless, search for the 'petition' from Ano Korakiana that Thanassis Spingos and Kostas Apergis asked me to look for in England in December 2007 (slide 3 below)
* * * Amy phones to warn us about problems flying to Scotland tomorrow:
VOLCANIC ASH UPDATE 15 May 2010 Current media coverage is reporting possible closure of UK airspace tomorrow, Sunday 16th May until Tuesday 18th May. These reports are unconfirmed and subject to the rapidly changing weather situation. Please check the Arrivals/Departures section of this website or contact your airline for specific flight details. This page will be updated as soon as further information becomes available.
Maybe, suggests Thor Thordarson, volcanologist at Edinburgh University, this phenomenon and the disruption it is causing now will last far longer - decades even, peaking between 2030-2040. This paper was published 12 years ago by geologists at the Science Institute, University of Iceland:
Gudrún Larsen, Magnús T. Gudmundsson and Helgi Björnsson, 'Eight centuries of periodic volcanism at the center of the Iceland hotspot revealed by glacier tephrostratigraphy', Geology, October 1998 (26) 10, pp. 943-946
ABSTRACT: A record of volcanic activity within the Vatnajökull ice cap has been obtained by combining data from three sources: tephrostratigraphic studies of two outlet glaciers, a 415-m-long ice core from northwestern Vatnajökull, and written records. The record extends back to A.D. 1200 and shows that the volcanic activity has a 130–140 yr period. Intervals of frequent eruptions with recurrence times of three to seven years alternate with intervals of similar duration having much lower eruption frequency. In comparison with other parts of the plate boundary in Iceland, eruption frequency is greater, episodes of unrest are longer, and intervals of low activity are shorter. The high eruption frequency may be the result of a more sustained supply of magma, owing to the area's location above the center of the Iceland mantle plume. When combined with historical data on eruptions and earthquakes, our data indicate that rifting-related activity in Iceland as a whole is periodic and broadly in phase with the volcanic activity within Vatnajökull.
Reported on 17 May 2010: why we had to drive to Amy's wedding
Alain de Botton has imagined a flightless future arousing mixed feelings of pleasure, regret and puzzled recoilings from any suggestion that among those who are homo - occasionally - sapiens, growing numbers are devoting their lives to drawing down the curtains on the 'big, fast and ugly' show to create something more entertaining. I dream of a return to
airships - perhaps like the one imagined by the young Indonesian designer Reindy Allendra - his WB-1010 for KLM - a talented piece of imagining that might become less fantastical as we consign the hydrocarbon era to history, before it does the same to us.
* ** **
My neighbours, John and Jill Rose, went onto the site of the Victoria Jubilee Allotments via the new houses next to Handsworth Park this afternoon. The long delay in opening the site could just be over in a few weeks. "I've heard from the allotments man at the city that June 6 is the day." John had pressed him a little, "Is that for real?" "Yes"
The dark green gardeners' shed has been in place since earlier in the year. Now topsoil's been spread. The water supply's in place, along with hard surfaces for access and parking. The area's being landscaped, with the levelled laying fields for cricket and football included in the S106A now surrounded by a high guard fence to keep balls in play. "Any idea of take-up?" I asked. "It's up to 92." Though it's occurring in many cities, this doesn't necessarily mean we are already suffering over-demand on ther VJA's 80 plots. For newcomers lots can be halved or quartered and others will drop out when it comes to actually starting to garden. That said once the site is visibly up and running more will be seeking spaces. It's the way the wind's blowing. (More on the VJA and local food growing - scroll down, see links)
Entrance to the nearly completed Victoria Jubilee Allotments, Handsworth
** ** **
I've just had a letter from Jennie Constable at SWFTA:
Dear Simon. At last, I have worked my way through the backlog of urgent tasks and have now had time to give the Hargreaves collection some attention. It is rather embarrassing that it is nearly a year since Mr P. first contacted us, but I am able to report that we have made some headway over the past few months. First of all, we took the opportunity of having some overseas work placement students earlier in the year to give them the task of making a basic log of the films and tapes we hold. The result is the attached Excel spreadsheet which I hope you can view. It is by no means perfect bearing in mind it was compiled by students with questionable language skills and little if any knowledge of the television industry, but on the other hand it's not bad at all as a starting point. Secondly, we have now succeeded in making what we think is an acceptable DVD for Mr Hill (with a second copy 'just in case') but I have not yet sent it to him ... Perhaps you could let me have the address, ... Finally, we'd be delighted to see you for a meeting about the collection. It would have to be either before Thursday 20th May or after Monday 7th June. I hope you've had a pleasant stay in Greece and trust you arrive back safely without any volcanic intervention! Best wishes, Jennie
Extract from an Excel spread listing JH film at SWFTA
*** *** ***
From The Greek Financial Crisis blog
The European Union and the International Monetary Fund have approved a nearly $1 trillion package to stop Greeces debt crisis from spilling beyond its borders into the rest of the eurozone. Stocks surged in Europe, Asia and the United States Monday after EU leaders agreed to a $960 billion package to contain Greeces financial troubles. Meanwhile, the austerity measures demanded by the IMF and the European Union as a condition of their loan are continuing to exact their toll. Greeces two main unions have continued to hold protests against the reforms. In a statement, one of the unions said, The crisis should be paid byall those who looted public finances.

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Simon Baddeley