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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Sunday lunch <α λα παλαιά>

Mark said “we were thinking of Sunday lunch together…in the mountains” which rise behind Ano Korakiana with the three crags, almost overhanging the village, their ascent by car or cycle via an old military road with twenty nine hairpin bends, each stretch revealing an ever-larger landscape until you get to Sokraki astride the watershed and can see over the north coast of the island, the high snowed peaks of Albania above Girokaster where our island still runs close to the Balkan mainland. Verged with wild flowers – banks of violet honesty some turning silver dollar, yellow and white daisies, a few spring cyclamen below overhanging olives their spreading roots covered in moss - the road winds briefly down to an upland valley.
The weather’s mild beginning to be languorous even in March. Stopping for a pee Mark, strolling off the road, finds a blackbird’s nest full of skyblue eggs. Four kilometres on round a hairpin in the middle of Zigos, a climb to Sgourades, the village with the shop house on several storeys buttressed by grandiose curlicued horizontal corbels that might have been salvaged from a signorini’s mansion, then a turn south west, still ascending, but on the middle slopes of Pantokrator, until coming to a sharp exit left, where the bus parks that connects passengers on the Corfu town-Spartillas-Acharavi service travelling towards Sokraki. We climb steadily meeting no traffic until Mark and Sally stop by two cyclists going the same direction – workmates - pedalling to the summit. With panoramic views south and north, we begin to descend to the north side of the ridge we’ve been following to Strinilas. We park outside ‘a la palaia’ - α λα παλαιά - Yianni and Maria waiting; a kitchen full of cooking. By good chance, Tim and Nikki who’ve come from the north east, were there too. Swiftly our booked table for six is pulled out to sit eight of us. It’s just before two, the journey having taken about half an hour, and there’s a flaming fire and a smell of Sunday lunch. “Forget the menus, Yianni” says Paul “Show us what what you’ve got.” We straggle into the kitchen peering over each others’ shoulders, at casseroles, prawns, roasting meat, rice and vegetables in big pots and all sorts of starter dishes. I’ve already decided on the big squid in its own ink and leave it to Sally and Cinta, both cooks and speaking excellent Greek, to set us all up with a selection of pies – spinach, aubergine and cheese – garlic potatoes, thin sliced chips, big garlic mushrooms with lemon, snails in oil and butter and green salads with goat’s cheese – served with jugs of village white and red wine and beer, garlic and olive butter and a basket of new soft crusted bread; all before our main course – squid, local lamb, big prawns, pork chop - not arriving until we’d had plenty of time to clear the starters. Eating was good; "not much meat on the lamb perhaps", and the seafood was “probably from a freezer in town, shipped from far away…these are the times” someone remarked.
After the main meal had been enjoyed Mark took a photo. After a well judged interval, came custard coated honey baklava, a variety of coffees and a shared dish of apple slices sprinkled with cinammon. <Είμαι ευχαριστημένος> I said. The night surrounded us filled with stars as we descended down the same narrow roads, the lowlands far below sprinkled to the north with the lights of Roda, Karousades and Sidari and villages in between, while, prominent in the southern landscape, the bright cluster of the city at the end of a line of white lights reflected in the sea winding along the coast from Dassia through Gouvia, Kontokali and Potomas to the floodlit Old Fort on the tip of Cape Sidero. On the edge of Ano Korakiana we were stopped by an ambulance in the road by the high sided buildings before the narrow platea opposite the kafeneion, blue lights flashing, men in white coats clambering in, glimpses of starched sheets on a stretcher in a bright interior of shiny equipment and in the dimmer street lights people clustered in the flickering shadows. “I think it’s at M’s house” said Cinta out of their car just ahead of us. In a minute the ambulance was away, the street emptied. At home we watched a happy film – an episode of ‘The Darling Buds of May’ - needing no supper before bed.
Dear dear Sachiko. I'm in Greece at the moment where of course we have been getting the terrible news from Japan. I've been in touch with Takanori but not with any other friends from Japan. He mentioned being used to earthquakes but that this was "something special" and indeed it is. He is OK but do you have news of others I may know? I send my deepest condolences at this tragic time for Japan, and to you and your family who must be tremendously concerned both for the country as a whole and in some cases for relatives and friends. Much love and the kindest regards, Simon (and Linda) 
From Sachiko Imai 15 March at 16:21 Report. Dear Simon. Thank you for your concern. I and my family are OK so far. But I'm very sorry that now is not time to contact with my friends and people who you may know. My prefecture Ibaraki is one of the worst disaster areas. In my case, water supply still cut off. Big quakes are continuing every one hour or so. And we have acute shortages of electricity, foods, and gasoline. In addition, my prefecture is bordered by the south of Fukushima prefecture where the nuclear explosion occurred. We must support them with great care. On the other hand, we are also taking care of our own nuclear facilities. The disaster scale is so huge. There is no end in sight. Of course, I would like to think the situation is getting better day by day. Now, as a member of the Ibaraki disaster countermeasures office, I am doing my best. I'd like to thank you for your concern again.  Sachiko
Dear Sachiko. We are thinking of you, with much of the rest of the world. I know that you will do more than your best and am proud to know you. I heard from my university from Caroline Rance PA to our Director who wrote 'We have heard from Irmelind that no one at JLGC has anyone injured in their personal families and that the group of students on their JET programme from the UK are all ok, John, Ian and Catherine are dining today with Ira and three others from JLGC and will be passing on INLOGOV's thoughts and good wishes.' Dearest Sachiko take care of yourself. XXX Love and best wishes from Simon and family. 
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Messages from England reflecting economic circumstances have included a tough decision not to renew four research posts at the institute, an email from a tenant at one of Lin's properties in the centre of Birmingham saying he's had to leave at short notice as work planned in town is cancelled, and another saying the venue in Staffordshire of our friends' wedding has gone bankrupt. Matt and Liz are nothing if not spirited and while still recovering cash invested in the event over three years - they had taken out insurance - have found another place: Rowton Castle. Halfway House, Shrewsbury.
wedding breakfast menu: starter - salmon and prawn mousse wrapped with salmon and dill. main - boneless leg of lamb cooked in rosemary and garlic, with vegetables and shrewsbury sauce. dessert - lemon curd tart with blackberry coulis and a finger biscuit. we will be marrying at 2pm
guests are expected to arrive at 1pm.....
Meltdown and dependence on unwise and untested technologies - op-ed in Huffington Post by Randall Amster. Could there, as events develop at Fukushima, be a re-think of our re-committment in the UK to nuclear technology? See how The Guardian wavers. If only the issue could be seen as a no-brainer. All technologies carry negatives, both in their  application and in consequence of not applying them, but only nuclear energy barring unforeseen inventiveness, promises in the case of high level nuclear waste a legacy of toxic menace that can outlast the duration of man's recorded history on earth:
...The splitting of relatively heavy uranium atoms during reactor operation creates radioactive isotopes of several lighter elements, such as cesium-137 and strontium-90, called “fission products,” that account for most of the heat and penetrating radiation in high-level waste. Some uranium atoms also capture neutrons from fissioning uranium atoms nearby to form heavier elements like plutonium. These heavier-than-uranium, or “transuranic,” elements do not produce nearly the amount of heat or penetrating radiation that fission products do, but they take much longer to decay. Transuranic wastes, also called “TRU,” therefore account for most of the radioactive hazard remaining in high-level waste after a thousand years. Radioactive isotopes will eventually decay, or disintegrate, to harmless materials. However, while they are decaying, they emit radiation. Some isotopes decay in hours or even minutes, but others decay very slowly. Strontium-90 and cesium-137 have half-lives of about 30 years (that means that half the radioactivity of a given quantity of strontium-90, for example, will decay in 30 years). Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,000 years. (US Nuclear Regulatory Commission)
The matter of nuclear fusion is sufficiently complex for the stark facts to disappear amid obfuscation, which will clearly include the clear and present danger presented by continued reliance on fossil fuels and the current inadequacy in terms of human energy demand of renewables. As definitive as the  half-life of Plutonium-239, is the fact that in a world of wind, sun, waves. tides and geothermal energy we in the 21st century have not already turned our undivided attention, devotion and capacity for enduring austerity into tapping the energy of these natural renewables. There's a tale of an old man on his death bed complaining to God. "Why didn't you warn me I would die, Lord?" "But my dear child I made your hair whiter, your joints weaker, your skin more wrinkled, your teeth looser, your lungs more feeble. I did this very gradually and very gently so as not to frighten you. What more could I do by way of warning?"
17 March: Dear Simon. I really appreciate your heartwarming message. I hope the all disaster areas in Japan will be restored soon. Thank you very much. Best regards, Sachiko
A most rare public appearance, in measured classical language - an address by His Majesty The Emperor - 天皇 - on what, in Japan, was the 16 March:
I am deeply saddened by the devastating situation in the areas hit by the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake, an unprecedented 9.0-magnitude earthquake, which struck Japan on March 11th. The number of casualties claimed by the quake and the ensuing tsunami continues to rise by the day, and we do not yet know how many people have lost their lives. I am praying that the safety of as many people as possible will be confirmed. My other grave concern now is the serious and unpredictable condition of the affected nuclear power plant. I earnestly hope that through the all-out efforts of all those concerned, further deterioration of the situation will be averted. Relief operations are now under way with the government mobilizing all its capabilities, but, in the bitter cold, many people who were forced to evacuate are facing extremely difficult living conditions due to shortages of food, drinking water and fuel. I can only hope that by making every effort to promptly implement relief for evacuees, their conditions will improve, even if only gradually, and that their hope for eventual reconstruction will be rekindled. I would like to let you know how deeply touched I am by the courage of those victims who have survived this catastrophe and who, by bracing themselves, are demonstrating their determination to live on. I wish to express my appreciation to the members of the Self-Defense Forces, the police, the fire department, the Japan Coast Guard and other central and local governments and related institutions, as well as people who have come from overseas for relief operations and the members of various domestic relief organizations, for engaging in relief activity round the clock, defying the danger of recurring aftershocks. I wish to express my deepest gratitude to them. I have been receiving, by cable, messages of sympathy from the heads of state of countries around the world, and it was mentioned in many of those messages that the thoughts of the peoples of those countries are with the victims of the disaster. These messages I would like to convey to the people in the afflicted regions. I have been told that many overseas media are reporting that, in the midst of deep sorrow, the Japanese people are responding to the situation in a remarkably orderly manner, and helping each other without losing composure. It is my heartfelt hope that the people will continue to work hand in hand, treating each other with compassion, in order to overcome these trying times. I believe it extremely important for us all to share with the victims as much as possible, in whatever way we can, their hardship in the coming days. It is my sincere hope that those who have been affected by the disaster will never give up hope and take good care of themselves as they live through the days ahead, and that each and every Japanese will continue to care for the afflicted areas and the people for years to come and, together with the afflicted, watch over and support their path to recovery.." 

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Simon Baddeley