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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

From a train in winter

Travelling through a recognisable landscape; broad muirs speckled with snow, mist rolling up higher ridges, black sheep on meadows under wind-break elms, scanning bar codes of regimented pine by the line; a web of power lines on pylons, tributaries to settlements on wooden poles, phone masts and wooden fences, woods of leafless birch, lines of alder marking burns, passing long enough to gaze at highland rivers edged with ice; a wet well salted road among white modern houses, snow on their insulated roofs. After Slochd Summit suburban hamlets in commuting reach of Inverness become fewer. Still on the old one track line built a century ago, we march beside the busy A9 - road bridge, rail bridge, road hill, rail cutting; no tunnels on this route from Inverness to Perth via Carrbridge, Aviemore, Kingussie Ceann a' Ghiuthsaich (head of the pine forest), Newtonmore Baile Ùr an t-Slèibh (new town of the moor) - the geographical centre of Scotland at the meeting of the old droving roads between livestock fairs at Perth, Fort William and Inverness - Dalwhinnie Dail Chuinnidh (trysting place) - no stops at the last two - as the five coach train hurries down from the Pass of Drumochter by the Boar of Badenoch An Toch and the Sow of Atholl Meall an Dobharchain, into Blair Atholl, then through Dunkeld and Birnham, to Pitlochry and Perth; south to Edinburgh via the Forth Bridge, gripped by a DVD of The Stranger starring Orson Welles - its climax as we came into Waverley.
I cycled and part walked this route - between Pitlochry and Inverness; cycling from Glasgow via Loch Lomond and the Trossachs on Sustrans route 7 with my daughter and friend John Richfield and his son Tom, savouring the smaller landscapes between.
Who invented the notion of an 'unspoilt' landscape? Where did I ingest this ... grotesque...idea of a pristine place. How painters and photographers have colluded to omit, to select, to crop and redact their idea of warts - cars, litter, motorways, wind turbines, buildings, runways, crowds, barbed wire. "Psst, want to see a nice view?" "I can take you where you can find landscapes. Very nice. Very clean," "How much do you want to pay?" I'm not alone in thinking a landscape really likes me; imagining I could own it. All landscapes are artefacts; as man-made in the countryside as in the city - a distinction itself man-made. Our rural landscapes are parks between our cities. Many paradises were made by rich people coming to live among poor people; city folk descending on village folk; industrialists visiting the pre-industrial; the disenchanted (Weber called it enttäuschung - the iron cage that our reason has forged for us) returning to worlds where enchantment survives. As for those few places left where the hand of man has hardly reached, they can kill you a surely as a surviving tigers can kill its kindly keeper. There are just too many of us. We teem. We swarm across the land - leaving wastelands in our wake and now there's nowhere left. This is not pessimism. I'm trying to extract from myself the long inculcated and now commodified assumption, that 'there's a place for us'. That was always going to end in tragedy. There is indeed a place, but it's no longer defined by geography, probably never was for all our projection of happiness onto physical landscapes. Geography is no longer about mapping new places - since there are none - but about trying to understand what's happening in places already discovered.

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Our street in Birmingham was looking untidy this morning; refuse uncollected because of industrial action, though since recycling there's less than there might be (bottles and plastic for recycling were collected yesterday but not the black bags). A neighbour has put out garden refuse, forgetting this isn't collected this time of year. I'll probably put it with ours to be composted on our allotment.
12 January '11: our street in Handsworth, Birmingham
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From Ano Korakiana, news of the vice-mayoralties - some for portfolios or tasks and others for particular areas of Corfu, appointed by the Mayor of Corfu's new Municipality, John Trepeklis:
Οι αντιδήμαρχοι του νέου Δήμου του νησιού μας, ορίστηκαν σήμερα με απόφαση του Δημάρχου Γιάννη Τρεπεκλή. Όπως προβλέπεται από τη νομοθεσία, αυτοί ανέρχονται σε 14 και διακρίνονται σε «θεματικούς» (υπεύθυνοι κάποιου τομέα πολιτικής) και «χωρικούς» (υπεύθυνοι για κάποια γεωγραφική ενότητα).
Οι θεματικοί αντιδήμαρχοι είναι οι:
Οικονομικών: Τάκης Καρύδης (δημαρχών αντιδήμαρχος)
Τεχνικών Υπηρεσιών: Σπύρος Μωραΐτης
Καθαριότητας, υπ. Πρασίνου: Αλέκος Δήμου
Διοίκησης, Ηλεκτρονικής Διακυβέρνησης: Γιώργος Πανταζής
Αγροτικής ανάπτυξης, ευρωπαϊκών προγραμμάτων: Σπύρος Ρίγγας
Προγραμματισμού: Αναστάσιος Μοναστηριώτης
Παιδείας, νεολαίας και απασχόλησης: Αναστάσιος Ποταμίτης
Κοινωνικής πολιτικής, υγείας και προστασίας του Πολίτη: Αλέκος Πουλής
Πολιτικής Προστασίας: Κώστας Νίκου
Οι χωρικοί αντιδήμαρχοι είναι οι εξής:
Λευκιμμαίων, Κορισσίων, Μελιτειέων: Ανδρέας Σαγιάς
Κερκυραίων, Αχιλλείων, Παρελίων: Βαρβάρα Βλάσση
Φαιάκων, Κασσωπαίων, Θιναλίων: Φανή Τσιμπούλη*
Εσπερίων, Παλαιοκαστριτών, Αγίου Γεωργίου: Μάκης Φωτεινός
Διαποντίων Νήσων: Σπύρος Αργυρός
Some of the deputy Mayors of the Corfu for  2011 to 2012 - women missing
Όπως προκύπτει από τον παραπάνω κατάλογο, τα θέματα του χωριού μας, υπάγονται γενικά στη νέα αντιδήμαρχο, γνωστή δικηγόρο Φανή Τσιμπούλη, η οποία διετέλεσε επί δύο τετραετίες δημοτική Σύμβουλος στον τέως Δήμο Φαιάκων (στις παρατάξεις της αντιπολίτευσης), αλλά και στους θεματικούς αντιδήμαρχους, κατά περίπτωση. Βέβαια, η κα Τσιμπούλη θα έχει υπό την ευθύνη της ολόκληρη τη βορειο-ανατολική Κέρκυρα, γεγονός που καθιστά κρίσιμο το ρόλο του Τοπικού μας Συμβουλίου…
*Includes Ano Korakiana

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Simon Baddeley