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Sunday, 9 January 2011

Getting ready to leave the Highlands

Farewells said. The younger ones ready to leave
The other morning Amy and Guy left early to get south before there was more snow on Slocht summit or Drumochter Pass. Margie F, my mother's carer, drove in convoy with them for a while. heading on to London then a flight home to South Africa, having transferred her role to Fiona W. Abruptly we were two dogs less; my daughter and her husband gone back to work and Margie no longer here. The house seemed to empty. After I'd gone to bed, halfway through Kadare's The Three Arched Bridge, just after the builders had immured a man in their stonework:
The bridge ... demanded a sacrifice. Let someone come who is willing to be sacrificed in the piers of the bridge, the bards sang. The monk, sure that no one would volunteer, was aghast to learn that Murrash Zenebisha, an average local worker had been immured into the bridge's first arch in the night, his face still visible, staring out from the bridge, where his corpse could be made out beneath a veneer of plaster. It was something that violated everything we knew about the borders of life and death. The man remained poised between the two like a bridge, without moving in one direction or the other. The man had sunk into non-existence, leaving his shape behind him, like a forgotten garment.
I'd left the laptop up-loading a film I'd made with mum. I woke to the ring of a Skype call.
Lin "What are you doing in bed so early with your computer on? Watching porn?"
"Why should I when I'll be home soon?"
"Ha ha" We chatted about things, she smoking at the kitchen table in Handsworth, me in my nightie looking tired.
"My leg's swollen" I said "I bruised it tripping over a big flowerpot and the swelling's still there after a week."
"Yuk" she said when I showed it to her "Ibuprofin? It's anti-inflammatory." We can both play Carrie and Charles Pooter. "I've got us a flight for Easter to Corfu. When can you get away?"
"April onward. Do you ever think of saving the environment?"
"OK. I'm going now."
Boo-peep goes the Skype hang-up. A frog jumping into a pond. Awake again I read some more Kadare. I so like him but I don't think this tale of a bridge being built - an idea I like - can compete with Ivo Andrić's Bridge over the Drina. K's Broken April still has the strongest hold on my imagination and my thinking about Albania.
On Monday morning Oscar and I will take the train from Inverness to Edinburgh Waverley, and change there for Birmingham New Street, arriving at 1900 - eight hours. I've made myself a picnic - grainy brown bread sandwiches, one with hand carved ham and mustard, the other with cheddar and pickle sauce, plus some buttery shortbread and toffees. Fiona's prepared one for Oscar. I've the book to finish and then perhaps some DVDs - John Ford's cavalry series, extinguished myths of the west.
I managed to have mum make one more video, in which she speaks of how she and Angus came to live at Mains of Faillie forty years ago, creating such a special place for so many of us.
Mum's memories: coming to live in the Highlands from Simon Baddeley on Vimeo.
As well as pointing me towards the nicest news from Corfu about the long long awaited new hospital at Kontokali, and a web diary by the Prime Minister's brother, Nick Papandreou - from which I jumped to Dreams in time of Greek Austerity - Jim Potts has left me two poems - one 'more like a haiku' - he wrote about Sotiria Bellou in the comments at the bottom of my previous entry - 'The greatest voice in Greece, for me' he writes...

      Greek Music

      The salty tang of sea-ports;
      The belle-laide voice of Bellou:
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John Martin in Bendigo, who when I first visited Brisbane with him in 2009 about the catastrophic floods that struck the city in 1974, mails:
Morning Simon, more rain overnight, all along the east coast of Australia to add to the floods in Qld. Brisbane will have flooding the next few days. Your time in Scotland with your mum and Amy and Guy sounds delightful. Good on you for asking about your mother's history. I am sure your attention is much appreciated. Delighted to have your video greetings on your blog. It was a nice short summary, very appropriate, and generous. Thank you. Not long before you are back in Corfu. I imagine February would be an interesting time being colder than when we have been there. Lots of time to explore the island, read some good books and just take it easy. We are off to Adelaide later this week. When is a good time for a chat via Skype the next few days? Cheers, John

Source: BOM December's rainfall deciles for Australia 2010
Hi John. Have a good visit to Adelaide. I missed it this time and recall how much I liked the place – especially the hills and the pier at the end of the tram line. I do like a return trip to a destination on an edge. Climate dislocation, sovereign risk...I’ve been seeing it. Bizarre to think that last year this time you were concerned about fires – and may yet be. By and large the UK is without weather extremes or earthquakes, which is why even small variations from the average cause us such problems stirred by superlatives frenzy in the media. “Terror of vicar’s wife after Oldham earthquake worries her carp” “I was woken by it” says Wolverhampton plumber “I had to call in sick.” “After the loose tile dropped off my neighbour's roof I became agoraphobic claims another quake victim” “Quake failures. Coalition government must go” etc. I’m back in Handsworth tomorrow night and could call you around 0930 your time or the next day. In Corfu January is famously the wettest month, but February can be too. I got lots of firewood ready last October. As I scan the internet – not just mainstream media – it seems there are an enormous number of unique separate initiatives to enhance sustainability. Something emerging not easily recognised amid the confusing landscape of the immediate.
...and via Global Voices,  (and here up to 12 January '11) came to Christopher Joye's Aussie Macro Moments, oh, I commented on the removal from the mouth of a white southerner of over 200 n-words in a small school's edition of Huckleberry Finn in Alabama brought to my attention by Corfucius - my favourite blogger ever.
That there's an argument to be made for Alan Gribben's action speaks to our times. Looking back in another generation or two, if we really have come to live in a world where color of skin means less than the content of character, we will be as puzzled by this censorship as we are now by those Victorians who draped the legs of their pianos with frilly lace.
...and as brilliant Chris Rock famously asks and answers "can a white man use the word...not really"
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Me and my Amy in the Highlands
I took a final walk with Oscar, before leaving in the morning, in the woods near, and figured the way the path though mildly sinuous had seemed straight yet led me the way I'd come; an undetectabed curve in what seemed direct. I walked slowly to spare my ankle, stopping to  hear the soundlessness of the woods, though my tread was muffled by snow. Two people, one a child, had walked ahead of me in the day, also with a dog. Their prints guided me where the path was unclear.
Whose woods these are

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