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Monday, 27 September 2010

A bumble bee in the cockpit

Rain arrived in the early hours. I heard its patter before dawn and snoozed the better. By midday water was spouting in gouts from the gutter pipes, pouring down steps in the village like a burn in spate, running in rivulets down the street, gurgling into the cross street gutters. Heavy clouds streamed up from the south flowing up the sides of the mountains behind the village hiding the crags, blowing a loppy sea toward the strait. It rained all afternoon, into the evening. I was driving back alone from Tzavros after midnight, windscreen wipers at double speed. At the corner just beyond Marmara Trifona – stone factory – I skidded the car ending up in brambles and hollyoak facing back the way I’d come. In seconds I knew I was stuck there. But I was unhurt and so was the car. A Samaritan had already pulled up just ahead of me. Was I alright “Can I take you anywhere?” Andrioti on his way to Acharavi gave me a lift home to Ano Korakiana. Mark, who I texted, offered to help drag me out but said it was a very dangerous corner ‘better try your car hire company’. I cycled down to see the scene in the morning, sun shining again.
As I surveyed the scene several people stopped to check no-one had been hurt and offer assistance, but Yianni from ValuePlus cars in Sidari was sorting me out in no time. Early Sunday but Sophia, his wife - I think - answered the phone almost instantly. She contacted Yianni and a few minutes later said he’d be along with a tow truck in 45 minutes. Yianni’s first action on arriving was not to check his car but to express his relief I was safe and ask “Are you alright?”, later checking the new tires on the car in case they had been a problem, when I was well aware it was my fault for touching the brake too late on a steep corner in drenching rain. The two truck men, Spiros and another Yiannis, spoke for a few moments, then positioned the truck across the road, with one stopping northward traffic and me waving down southward. In less than five minutes the car was out of the verge, the road clear, and the car on the truck, taken to a layby a hundred yards away, and off loaded. Yianni drove it a kilometer back and forth and back and handed it back. “Everything’s fine. No worry. Pay the truck €40” Which I did gladly, with a tip, especially as I’d been offered an earlier tow for €90 by another passing truck while I was waiting for Yianni.
I’d not told Lin the night before what happened. Wanted it sorted first. Now I did, realizing how fortunate it was that I’d not had my skid at a lot of other places where I could have fallen off the road, toppled the car, injured or killed myself and worse done the same to another on the road. This is how everything goes pearshaped in life; how easily and ordinarily the man with the scythe can drop in for a chat. Now apart from the lesson about wet roads on Corfu – told me plenty of times – I hold the memory of people’s kindness and efficiency. That has so often been my experience here. ** ** ** Nice news from Handsworth. After lying dormant for three weeks rain has brought forth our potatoes, photographed by Richard in the rows I planted them at the end of August.
Chris on the neighbouring plot emailed:
Hi Simon. Good news from hobbit land your tatties are looking great and all seemed to have formed plants at least 15cm. They all seem to have sprouted. Only half of my last ones seem to have come up which is amazing. I have never grown potatoes before so will be interested in any ideas you have when they are ready to eat. We seem to have good soil. I have put my shed up only roof needs finishing. New leader for labour elected today as I find out my and Perdis and teams NHS jobs are now likely to end in April and all cycling work with BCC and Sandwell NHS seems to be slowing and payments have not been made this month. It will be good that the allotment will mean I will not get bored and there will be plenty of time to get good food next year. Hope you are enjoying your break. Yours Chris
** ** ** Earlier in the week: Lin, tidying, broke a favourite piece of strawberry glass; tiny fragments over the marble floor. Natasha, in a brown study, sat on her step was exclaiming about the high cost of the English language book her son needs for his first lessons. We’ve got more dictionaries than we need collected at table-top sales, so I could at least offer that. Apart from our good fortune in neighbours, we’ve already had infinitely more in generosity, food, coffees and wine, informal lessons and invitations to the family table, so it was a relief she accepted it as tiny quid pro quo, but we’re far from evens on gift exchange. **** Email from Val back in New Zealand:
Hi Lin. Sorry I didn’t email you as soon as I arrived, but I was too tired and too cold. Would you believe; freezing weather and snow? So I spent the evening in front of a hot fire. … I slept on all flights on the way home (even from Christchurch to Dunedin , which was very bumpy because of bad weather, and a small plane), and I slept for 10 hours last night! I bought some duty free perfume in Athens; no problem until I got to Bangkok, there a custom officer insisted I put the SEALED duty free bag in a snap lock plastic bag! No problems with the couple of things that I had bought in Dubai. In Sydney there were no problems with the couple of things that I had bought in Dubai , but the customs official - a woman - was concerned with the amount of perfume in the bottle which was still inside the sealed duty free bag from Athens , which was still inside the snap lock bag from Bangkok . Having assured herself that it was an OK amount, she informed me that she had to x ray it again!!! When I got to Christchurch there was no problem with the perfume but as I had come via Dubai and had bought duty free there, I was accosted by a male customs officer at the carousel while I was waiting for my case, wanting to know if I had bought any pipes (hookahs) in Dubai , or any other wooden things. By this time I was feeling very jaded and very belligerent, I just told him “Oh for God’s sake, I have enough bloody crap at home without importing any”. When he stopped laughing, he told me he had to ask because several times a week they had people trying to bring them into the country. The flight from Christchurch was delayed by nearly an hour because there was a bumble bee in the cockpit, and they had to search the airport for some fly spray! It would have been quicker if someone had driven to the nearest shop and bought some. (I have just glanced out of the window, it’s snowing again, so much for showing off my sun tan!) The insect bites are no worse, or better come to that. By the time I got home I had a thing the size and shape of a rugby ball at the end of each leg, but the swelling has gone down considerably overnight. Love Val Hi Val. Glad you arrived safely, in spite of your encounters with overenthusiastic customs officials, and managed to sleep the journey away. Hope I can do the same when we come over! Loved the bit about the bumble bee in the cockpit. Hope the bites will be better soon - I had a nasty one between my big toe and the next toe (the little buggers will find any bit that hasn't been doused in anti-mos stuff!), but good old Germolene has done the trick. Now that you're not here the mosquitoes have turned their attentions to me. Simon is obviously their last choice - not sure what that says about him. He did, however, trip up the steps today and managed to save himself by putting his hand on a wasp, which promptly managed to sting him before being crushed to death. Two Piriton tablets and Anthisan cream to the rescue! The weather has continued very hot since you left, but they've forecast rain tomorrow. We've managed to get some work done…Still plenty to do…Apparently it's freezing cold in the UK too, so I've got that to look forward to. Must go now. I''ll be in touch in a few days. Can't Skype, as it's too early for you. Love Lin
*** ***
Rain rain rain - and a good thing too. Cleaning the roads, washing the walls and paths, freshening the air, reducing humidity. It is almost impossible to imagine sun and brightness when the south wind arrives with its freight of mist and damp. Lin was fussing over a tiny leak in our roof in the back room upstairs and through a join in our flue pipe. For her its like a flaw in her plans for the house that even a drop of rain should find its way into her home. I scolded her for starting at a flea. She almost wept. In the village few people are about. The season is ending for tourism. Wood is being delivered and stored for the winter. Me. I like this weather, quite as much as when its sunny. It shows things in different light; cues different reflections.
A wet day in Ano Korakiana - Ισχυρό ΚΚΕ
**** In Scotland I have news, a few days ago, of the happy meeting of Minoti Chakravarti-Kaul and my mother, who Minto calls Theodora - which is one of my mum's names, but one I've never heard used. She has a way of giving special people she meets a choice of her names - Barbara, Poppet, Theo, Theodora.. A plot is unfolding - loose ends woven; nothing if not intriguing.
Email from Minto (mum says that's the diminutive they used) during their meeting at Brin Croft in the Highlands:
Dear Simon.Thank you so much for your emails and it is only just this moment that I have been able to sit down to my netbook in St Andrews - home of my daughter. I did not want to take up more than 2 hours with dear Theodora Sumner Maine - she will be just that for me for the rest of my life. Unknown to her we did not tell her that we would limit our time and so when we did get up to leave she was just in her natural mode of seeing us off. Contrary to what Sharon said she had no problems with my accent and I spoke up just a little and also went slowly but she is so very alert and it was amazing how she got on to the issue of common lands in the UK.
I left her the big volume on the tradition of commoning with her and we will post the latest copies to her from Langford soon. She wants to know everything about the movement. That is how we could not talk much about what I had planned to ask her and also I had to abandon the whole set of questions I had prepared to ask her. It does not matter as she asked me within a few minutes when I would come back and could I stay with her and I was amazed at how things turned around. She asked this several times so I told her that I would try and be back with her about February/March and if she had her grand children around her that I would rent a cottage somewhere and work on my book and bump it off her and she was delighted with the decision and said she would note it in her diary.
I was going to write chronologically about our visit but I will wait till I get back to Langford and write a more coherent account about our time with Theodora. But let me just say that when I first entered her home there she was like a Dresden china image of Lady Maine and the aura about her and the place was so beautiful and inviting that I almost did not remember all the formal circumstances. When we parted both of us had tears in our eyes as she said that Sir Henry would be pleased with us meeting and remembering him the way we did.
I did tell her a lot of things about Sir Henry and India and the aftermath of the mutiny etc....for the time please bear with me if I am not able to write anything which will capture the extraordinary spirit of our meeting - it was like linking to a hallowed past as if the time had not elapsed. Theodora is just amazing. God bless her. Thank you very much Simon for making all this possible. Regards, Minoti. Prof. Dr. Minoti Chakravarty-Kaul, C-59 Uttaranchal, 5 I.P. Extension, Delhi 110092 URL:
PS. The book shown in my hand there is the one with the paper cuttings of the time ... but the book itself will stay here till I come back next year and bring it back for the collection which may be we should index. What do you say? I have promised Theodora to organise the papers and books she says these are in the other house from where she had shifted to Brin Croft. She had no idea that her father, that is H.C.S. Maine, had several important groups of letters which he had made available to George Feaver! ...She is very interested in the issues of grazing lands in Scotland and shepherding.
And what Professor Chakravarti-Kaul added when I spoke to her on the phone while she was at Brin Croft, among other things, was "Your mother and I have been talking not about the past but about the future!"
Note: The photo of Minoti and my mother at Brin Croft is by Dr Peter Lane 
 ** ** **
 How lucky that now in my late 60s I encounter The Pickwick Papers. I could never have enjoyed these when younger. I wouldn't have understood or found it possible to engage with Dickens' first novel - though others of his I've enjoyed since youth. Leave reading Pickwick until later - like Cavafy. If it's taught in school play truant. Save for old age!
Sam Weller and Samuel Pickwick
*** *** Corfucius has pointed out that a 'spineless' news editor at the BBC has removed an account by the excellent freelancer Malcolm Brabant about the throwing of a shoe at George Papandreou during a recent protest in Thessaloniki. But see this from Teacherdude - citizen journalist - on 30 Sept '10.

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Simon Baddeley