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Monday, 13 June 2011

Rain in June

Sunday: I worked for two hours in the rain, no-one else on the allotments, finishing a barrow path from the edge of our plot to where we'll put up our shed.
Plot 14
Ah the pleasure of getting home, stripping off my sopping clothes in a warm house, showering, dressing in clean dry clothes and coming down for tea and toast, discussing the agenda for the next emergency meeting on the future of Central Handsworth Practical Care Project (we ought to find an easier title), phoning Denise and Mike to run it by them, getting expert advice from Rachel Chiu, on Community Interest Companies, planning next week's errands.

Listening to Rachel
For pudding on Sunday evening Lin made orange pie, πορτοκαλόπιτα, as Katerina taught her on a Sunday in early May. But where Katerina had used the Greek sun in Effie's and Adoni's garden, next to us on Democracy Street, Lin had to dry her filo pastry in the oven.
"It takes for ages. You have to get it dry enough to crumble without burning it."
All the same the final result in a wet English June compared well with her teacher's. Both were delectable, especially the crispy bits along the edges.
Later we watched Mira Nair's wonderful direction of Reese Witherspoon's Becky Sharpe in the latest version of Vanity Fair; one which challenges an account of the rise and fall of a scheming social climber. Always behind that interpretation has lurked a riper story about a determined and daring woman without money or status striving to rise in a society of rigid class distinctions. Thackeray satirises a society and a personality; Mira Nair's version, arm-in-arm with Witherspoon plays down Thackeray's social diatribe. He described a story 'without a hero'. In their version Nair and Witherspoon made sure they had a heroine.
A meadow on the VJA

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Lest I look the other way,  Teacher Dude's Grill and BBQ, based in Thessaloniki,  reminds readers on his citizen-journalism blog of the constant unrest in Greece.
Defying torrential rain and the siren call of the country's beaches thousands of indignant Greeks massed once more for the third Sunday in a row to show their anger over the latest austerity mesures which the ruling PASOK government aims to get through parliament this week. With the imposition of poll tax on those earning €8,000 and more combined with yet further increases in VAT (sales tax) and extra indirect taxation via power bills prime minister Giorgos Papandreou is attempting to staunch Greece's hemorraghing public finances and satisfy demands for action by the troika of creditors made up of the IMF, EU and European Central Bank. On the other side of the equation stands a sizeable chunk of Greek public opinion, with according to some polls 90% of the electorate opposed to further measures. In the latest poll carried out by the Greek public opinion research company Public Issue found that over two million Greeks have taken part in some form of anti-government protest. Even within the ruling PASOK party 16 MPs have broken ranks and called upon their leader to allow more debate on the latest legislation which threatens to unleash further social unrest.
Richard Pine's latest op-ed in The Irish Times - 15 June '11 - argues that the scale of 'dignified protests' across Greece is pressing the government harder than more violent expressions.
Nothing like this phenomenon has been seen in Greece since the student demonstrations in 1973 which contributed to the collapse of the military junta. So much so that the political and economic concerns in the agora (public spaces) have been overtaken by the purely social. Aganaktismenoi may mean 'the indignant', but it is also a cypher for 'disaffected', and – another Greek word – apelpistikoi or those who feel helpless. These are people who have been alienated from their own country because there has been a breakdown between the political and social systems. Two of the chief facilitators of the Indignant protests (who include a very senior Greek diplomat) told me they rejected an overture from Syriza, the coalition of far-left political parties, to get involved. This was, from the start, enabled by networking through media such as Facebook, to be a non-political, peaceful, epiphany of 'real' people rather than vested interests. An exposition of frustration, distinguished by its ordinariness.....The public service, which will lose 150,000 workers by 2015, and faces another round of pay cuts as part of new austerity measures, clearly does not relish a return to a new, devalued, drachma. Those in the private sector who need a stimulus to manufacturing, agriculture and tourism would welcome the boost in exports and the end of recession.  It is widely accepted within Greece that a default is inevitable. As far as the man in the street is concerned, there is an emotive reason for reclaiming the drachma....
Χίλιες δραχμές - found this in our kitchen from a visit before 2002
Not only would it indicate the reassertion of sovereignty, but drachma, δραχμή, the classical word for the coin, also means a 'handful' 'δράσσομαι - as much as one can hold' – thus resonating with a sense of self-sufficiency and self-respect. The element in the equation which might swing public opinion towards change is the young, educated, city-based population that no longer wants to be tied to the taboos and sacred cows of the past. The aganaktismenoi αγανακτισμένοι, are predominantly young....
Me to Richard P: 'Do you really think we'll go back to the drach?'
Richard 15 Jun '11: The situation changes every day - no-one seems to know what is going to happen, except that Merkel & Co will do everything they can to protect the bloody euro. If Greece defaults, they will have a lot of friends. You can't run a so-called 'community' or union through bullying. It would be better to leave the playground with some dignity than submit to the treatment Greece will otherwise receive for years to come. Dunno
Back to the future - 21 June '11: 'The drachma, it worked once - it can work again'
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Monday was sunny and along with other jobs Lin and I spent an hour on the plot

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Simon Baddeley