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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

"'Like' is not strong enough"

Birmingham Coach Station
At Manchester airport, where we were driven from Digbeth in one of the older coaches with narrow seats, the lifts were at play. A door would open. Passengers would hurry to enter, halting at the last moment. They wanted to descend, but the elevator had other plans, heading upwards, visiting more floors - one  by one. Its descendant sibling assuming a partner had picked us up and passed without stopping. People pressed buttons impotently, grumbled non-verbally; switched to adjacent stairs lugging bags. We waited, intrigued. A member of staff arrived with a special-needs chair. Several lifts stopped instantly.
“How do we get to Terminal 3?”
“Not in this building. Stay with me. When you get out follow the signs.”
We’d come this route following signs but the God of Lifts intended we should meet Yiorgis Paraviccini, flying to see relatives in Corfu, a resident of Birmingham, with whom we enjoyed two hours before departure getting help with our homework for Tuesday, learning more Greek in the process. From Kapodistria we gave him a ride to The Liston. “Welcome home X” said a text from Paul and Lula.
Twenty minutes north the lights of Ano Korakiana spread across the mountain slope ahead. Indoors we finished a picnic we’d started on the coach to Manchester, watched a gangster film, the stove crackling.
Saturday morning the sky was unclouded. The sun warming by nine. Putting out washing I saw a pair of early swallows, swooping low, climbing, stalling, like little fighter planes sharing victory rolls.
We were to eat in Palia Perithia with Richard Pine. We drove on the corniche through the northern suburbs of the island’s 'Kensington' via ugly Barbati full of half-finished sea-view apartments, overbuilt shores, scarred escarpments, felled olive groves, past empty holiday- resort Kassiopi, until of a sudden bazzaville falls away and we're in New Perithia strolling up an overgrown path to Richard’s booklined house nestled among fruit trees. We sipped white wine, with small dark Corfu olives and feta to crumble in the mouth, and met part of the Durrell School team who’ll be hosting Gerald Durrell’s Corfu – a week around Ayios Ilias exploring the island with naturalists - a botanist, a herpetologist and others who know and love the place.
Pavla Smetanová was there too with her young daughter Susie. Sharing a car with David and Alexina Ashcroft we were soon sat down at Tomas’ in Old Perithia.
First movement - catching up with friends and getting to know people unmet; second movement pondering the news in the world, in Greece, in Corfu - for instance, Joanna Lumley’s planned visit here to make a film for TV called JL’s Corfu; for instance, wind farm plans on Pantocrator, and - even larger - in the sea around the Diapontian Islands, and far worse, the temptations of an oil seam north of Corfu that could repay, even after BP’s taken its share, all of Greece’s national debt three times over.
"Have you read Iain Banks' The Business?" Richard asked
"It's a corporation which to get a coveted seat on the UN - to become properly global - must buy a country."
Instrumental diversions; third movement – various sonatas slow and longer conversations about the parlous state of farming on Corfu, Sylvia Dimitriades’ project to save the little Skyros horse on the Silva Estate at Kanoni – typifying Gerald D’s work recovering animals at the edge of extinction, the pressures to intensify farming across the world, the growth of urban food growing, the passionate eloquent protests of both Durrells at humans so accomplished at fouling their only nest, then an interval for more wine and sweet things before the fourth movement with much laughter, nearly raucous, prompted by Pavla musing on her most formative reading – The Outsider, The Catcher in the Rye, some agreeing some not,
“I can’t do alienation any more than drugs. I’m nearly 70 and after 54 years avoidance I’m reading On the Road – while in the loo” said I, not embracing its picaresque aimless feckless car travel with breaks for ecstacy and jazz – beat Cervantes, Bunyan, Ulysses (and I don't mean only Joyce) prescient. And what of JK's history of Jazz in 280 words:
He raised his horn and blew into it quietly and thoughtfully and elicited birdlike phrases and architectural Miles Davis logics. These were the children of the great bop innovators. Once there was Louis Armstrong blowing his beautiful top in the muds of New Orleans; before him the mad musicians who had paraded on official days and broke up their Sousa marches into ragtime. Then there was swing, and Roy Eldridge, vigorous and virile, blasting the horn for everything it had in waves of power and logic and subtlety - leaning to it with glittering eyes and a lovely smile and sending it out broadcast to rock the jazz world. Then had come Charlie Parker, a kid in his mother's woodshed in Kansas City, blowing his taped-up alto among the logs, practicing on rainy days, coming out to watch the old swinging Basie and Benny Moten band that had Hot Lips Page and the rest--Charlie Parker leaving home and coming to Harlem, and meeting mad Thelonius Monk and madder Gillespie--Charlie Parker in his early days when he was flipped and walked around in a circle while playing. Somewhat younger than Lester Young, also from KC, that gloomy, saintly goof in whom the history of jazz was wrapped; for when he held his horn high and horizontal from his mouth he blew the greatest; and as his hair grew longer and he got lazier and stretched-out, his horn came down halfway; till it finally fell all the way and today as he wears his thick-soled shoes so that he can't feel the sidewalks of life his horn is held weakly against his chest, and he blows cool and easy getout phrases. Here were the children of the American bop night. (Chap.10. part 3)
The media-monster made this writing unapproachable, chewed it up and spat it out.
“There’s a line when they’re ‘zooming’ through New Jersey at dawn, Dean with a sweater round his ears to keep warm, 'said we were a bunch of Arabs coming in to blow up New York.’”
My son visited Birmingham’s Barber Institute three years ago to see part of Kerouac’s original manuscript, twelve foot sheets of drawing paper he’d taped together, so as not to lose his flow as he typed.
We switched to human yearning for pestless spotlessness.
“I was in Penkridge market the other day” said Lin “and there was a long market stall there – Airwick end to end. Spray-on, plug-in, even movement-sensitive."
“Ah yes!” I said “Spray away existential dread with new Kierke-Gaard”
“Use that to clean churches” muttered Richard
The difference between the dream of sailing and the actuality, “All that leaning over (Pavla leaned for us) when it gets windy”, shared jollity in wind and sea that gradually turns to green wretchedness.
“Can we turn on the engine and go home, please?”
Between the new cycle lanes laid in Corfu town meant to improve walking but really providing further parking space for the cars that ate Corfu; life as is and should be.
Throughout young Susie, composed and independent, amused herself, drawing, playing, watching and listening.
From there to the terrace of Villa Alexina in Agios Ilias as dusk came a bright sun on the grand heights of Albania over the way “I think of it as Mordor” said David.
He and Pavla were playing their guitars, though her favoured instrument is the sax, messing pleasantly around with different sequences of chords for different nations as evening cool came and Lin and I began to shiver, reminded it was only the beginning of April.
“Let’s go home through the mountains”
“Yes please. It’s shorter, easier and less bendy than the corniche”
“Ha ha!”
By dark after taking the tiny turn out of Acharavi, through Lazaratika, weaving through the narrows of Episkepsi, hardly noticing the hamlet of Omali, taking the sudden Zygos turn before Sgourades, she was driving us down to Ano Korakiana as I counted each of the twenty-nine hairpin bends below Sokraki.
“It’s getting tricky to find a parking space”
“People coming home for Easter month.”
We lit the fire. We read. Mark, with black dog teal, came to the balcony door carrying the cover for Summer Song. He’d had proper eyelets added after the mess made of it by a second-rate awning maker near the airport; reproached me for not coming to him about it in the first place. We sat quietly chatting at the end of a lovely day, though Teal farted quietly but venomously, impatient to be away. I thought at night about the lifting power of a loose footed sail, especially on the mysterious falkusa. I’d seen a picture showing how big bellied sails – like rising kites - can carry a small boat over rather than through short seas, easily dropped or reefed to manage the abrupt intensity of katabatic williwaws that fall like walls, yet light and broad enough to ghost on the waft of zephyrs.
The Gajeta Falkusa Under Full Sail - Unique Kayak Expeditions in Croatia
** ** **
On Monday Lin and I finished writing the minutes of the emergency meeting of the CHPCP we’d held on Thursday. It made good sense, given the current state of the project, to ensure the record was clear and shared. I’ve sent our draft to Edmund and  Mike, who chaired the meeting – immaculately, making it look easy - for their comments, prior to wider circulation, prior to the next emergency meeting on 19 May.
Agenda Item 2. The Situation’Simon explained that he became involved in the project after making a short film about it. Cllr Mahmood Hussain, with the city council’s Neighbourhood Manager, Yvonne Wager, present, asked Simon if he would be prepared to help with the project, following the resignation of Mr Ali, temporary project leader and Chair of the Committee. Simon agreed to try to organise a meeting of old committee members and others interested, to see what might best be done to ensure the project’s future.  Edmund Branch and Kris Hryniuk have continued to carry out the activities of the project since Glynis Foley’s death in August 2010. What is now needed is to re-establish a working committee, sort out the project’s finances and establish a modus vivendi that will ensure its continued standing as a local organisation providing help and practical assistance to people in Handsworth.
I’ve also typed up the old constitution, so that – digitized – it will be easier to debate and revise.
In the afternoon Lin started painting our balcony railings Corfu green. Next door Lefteris is preparing small local fish for a variety of fish dishes including soup and something that I’m inaccurately calling a fish ‘stiffado’. As Lin worked on our balcony Vasiliki came out on her balcony her arms held open as to embrace
“Linda. Linda. Ti kanies;”
“Kala. Poly kala. Eiseis;”then to me down below “What’s Greek for ‘lots to do’?” “Poli kronia?”
“Poli douleioo” said Vasiliki, knowing we want lessons.
They chatted without speaking. Earlier I’d seen Katherina weeping in the street with neighbours around and I asked the matter of Natasha, “She has lost her sister today – at the hospital.”
Κέρκυρα θάλασσα
*** ***
On Sunday, just back from table-top sales in Dassia and Ipsos, Adonis and Effie invited us to share their lunch in their garden next door. I learned that Adonis’ family came originally from Pontus. “Ah 1922?” I said indicating I knew some history. “Yes 1922” said Effie and he together. “He’d grown up in Macedonia – I couldn’t catch the name of his village – near Edhessa, north west of Thessaloniki.” I noticed that when he spoke of the city further east he called it Constantinople, as do all Greeks I know; as I do now and then, and more and more, despite being brought up on the name Istanbul. The plate of roast pork and new potatoes and mild feta was getting much of my attention, while Adonis plied us with Lefteris’ wine and a glass of tsipero to chase. He told me three times of the place where he grew up “waterfalls, hot springs, mountains.” I gladly listened knowing the feeling for place he was imparting, this being the first time we’ve done more than exchange pleasantries over the path between our houses. Effie told me she had grown up in Sokraki; that she’d met Adonis while he was in the Corfu Port Police, from which he’s just retired. While we were chatting their son George phoned from Southampton where he’s doing an engineering degree. “Our daughter Amy is also in the police” we said proudly. “You like Greece?” asked Adonis. “‘Like’ is not strong enough” I mimed my meaning, stood up and touched the ground and kissed my hand. I think we were all getting a little tipsy, but in  a Greek way, a contented Mediterranean way, that befits my detestation of the drinking habits of the north.
*** ***
Carrie and I have finished that drawer for the dining room table, adding brass handles. Fits perfectly.
** ** ** **
Carboot, tabletop sales and flea markets  - A Malcolm Brabant insight on one response to the economic difficulties in Greece.

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Simon Baddeley