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Monday, 19 December 2011

Δώρα για τα Χριστούγεννα

I set out after midday to visit my daughter and son-in-law on the outskirts of Birmingham, Oscar nestled in my front pannier, until I'd cycled two miles to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal at Spaghetti Junction, where we joined the towpath.
Cycling from Handsworth to Minworth - mostly by canal towpath
Cold and crisp, I threaded through the junction bridges below the arches amid the constant 'haar' of road traffic, thump-thump-thump as they cross expansion joints on the converging roads above. Below the canal water's limpid on the edge of icing.
I so enjoy this experience of threading the city, like a small beast travelling a secret track amid the undergrowth of a bustling world - cars, trucks, trains; busy Christmas planes whose rising flights pass over the eastern edge of the city. From home I'd joined Heathfield Road, which, after passing under the A34 overpass, becomes Trinity Road. There was a Sunday match at Villa Park, the stadium surrounded by crowds, concession stands, stewards and police through whose barriers I was politely waved, so across Witton Lane to Aston Hall Road, a short stretch of the Lichfield Road to the small exit in the wall before Salford Circus where Oscar, unleashed, leapt from my front pannier into this escape route from leadland.
The towpath full of puddles and muddy verges was easily navigated, but for occasional barriers to keep out motorbikes and scooters. The bridges show names so I could check my progress - about five miles to the brick hump-backed bridge, where I exit to Amy's house in Summer Lane about 200 yards from the canal on the edge of the city, fields at the end of their garden; gave Oscar, who was wet and muddy, a good towelling. Guy got me a cup of tea. Amy showed me the seven minute 4D ultrasound clip on a DVD of our grandson - made during her scan that morning. It was accompanied by a cheesy music soundtrack for which she apologised. Τίποτα.
Guy's dad, John and wife, Pru, arrived with Guy's brother Ed and wife -another Amy. We headed for late Sunday lunch at the White Horse next to the canal. Oscar stayed with Amy's and Guy's dogs, kept apart by a child-gate, the cats pass through. Lunch was a pleasure in a mock traditional pub, cosy with good beer. One problem - the afternoon carvery roast beef - dried to leather under a heat lamp.
Back at Summer Lane I got ready to cycle home. It was dark and colder. Amy, worried for 'my old dad'; wanted to give Oscar and me a lift back to Handsworth.
"No way! I'm looking forward to the ride and I'll walk on the messy bits of the towpath"
"Well phone when you're home"
It was a bit colder but dry so not chilling. The puddles' thin ice crunched under my wheels. The canal was already iced. In places I walked - slithering now and then - but most of the way Oscar ran behind and ahead as I cycled back into the city through a bladerunner landscape of concrete, blazing lights, multiple shadows enveloped in the raucous rumble of traffic under a starry sky.
Approaching Spaghetti Junction on a winter evening
Lin left for Sheffield on Sunday morning, taking her mum and dad to stay overnight for a biopsy on his eye, diagnosed as almost certainly a squamous carcinoma. Treatment is scheduled in January - chemo over four days. The consultant remains optimistic and Arthur has no pain.
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In Ano Korakiana villagers met on Sunday  to discuss the future of the Agricultural Co-op...discussing the budget, the continued production of olive oil, and the new legislative framework within which the co-operative must justify its continued existence when decisions have to be made early in 2012...
...Πραγματοποιήθηκε σήμερα, Κυριακή 18-12-2011, η Γενική Συνέλευση του Αγροτικού Συνεταιρισμού Άνω Κορακιάνας, υπό την Προεδρία του Σπύρου Κ. Θύμη και με προσέλευση λίγο μεγαλύτερη από εκείνη των εκλογών του περασμένου μήνα.
Τις εργασίες της Συνέλευσης «άνοιξε» ο νεοεκλεγείς Πρόεδρος του Δ.Σ. Σεβαστιανός Μεταλληνός, ο οποίος αφού αναφέρθηκε στη δύσκολη συγκυρία και στην σημασία της στήριξης της αγροτικής παραγωγής, εστίασε στη δύσκολη οικονομική κατάσταση του Συνεταιρισμού, παρουσιάζοντας παράλληλα τον προϋπολογισμό του επομένου έτους.
Στη συνέχεια, το μέλος του Δ.Σ. Μαρτζούκος Νικόλαος παρουσίασε μιαν αναλυτική εικόνα της κατάστασης του ελαιουργείου και στις παρεμβάσεις που κρίθηκαν απαραίτητες προκειμένου να τεθεί σε λειτουργία, τις προηγούμενες μέρες. Όπως δε τόνισε στην κατάληξη της ομιλίας του, το αποτέλεσμα που αντικατοπτρίζεται στην ποιότητα και ποσότητα του παραγόμενου ελαιολάδου είναι ήδη εμφανές και ικανοποιητικό.
Η τρίτη εισήγηση παρουσιάστηκε από τον Αντιπρόεδρο του Δ.Σ. Θανάση Σπίγγο και αφορούσε τις εξελίξεις που θα επηρεάσουν την πορεία, τη λειτουργία και την ίδια την ύπαρξη του Συνεταιρισμού, με βάση το νέο θεσμικό πλαίσιο που έχει τεθεί σε λειτουργία και προωθεί τη συνένωση όλων των Συνεταιρισμών του νομού και της Ένωσης σε ένα νομικό πρόσωπο. Το σώμα προϊδεάστηκε για μια νέα Γενική Συνέλευση το Γενάρη του 2012, οπότε θα κληθεί να λάβει σοβαρές αποφάσεις.
Στο ενδιάμεσο των εισηγήσεων μεσολάβησε γόνιμος διάλογος και ανταλλαγή απόψεων με τα παριστάμενα μέλη του Συνεταιρισμού.
and the pound rose against the Euro [European Central Bank Report, thanks to Jim Potts' link]:

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Ill news about the impact of the recession in Greece feels relentless - this from Greek News On-Line 18 Dec'11:
Athens.- Poverty in Greece has risen to new heights under a grueling recession exacerbated by austerity that has swelled the ranks of the unemployed, the homeless and the destitute, experts said on Saturday.
In comments to Ethnos Daily, public officials, senior churchmen and welfare group representatives warned of a brooding humanitarian crisis as official data showed over 320,000 people had lost their jobs in a year.
Athens Mayor George Kaminis told the daily that the city’s homeless had increased by around 20% while queues at soup kitchens organised by municipal and church organisations were up 15%.
“Care workers no longer meet typical homeless people, they meet a person who likely had a perfectly organised life weeks previously,” said Kaminis, who has asked for additional state funding for city welfare services.
“We have noticed a dramatic increase in our mess halls over the recent period,” added Chrysostomos Symeonidis, head of the Athens archdiocese poverty fund.
“We distribute over 10,000 meals on a daily basis and 250,000 meals are given out nationwide on a weekly basis,” Symeonidis said.....
[Back to the future - 20 Dec'11: Why Greece is the sick man of Europe by Anthee Carassava BBC News, Greece:...over a decade ago, the World Health Organization ranked the Greek healthcare system as the 14th best in overall assessment and 11th - higher than Germany and the UK - in quality service. But since then, attempts to provide Greek citizens with universal health access has met fierce resistance from interest groups, mainly private doctors and clinics. The result: a decrepit, underfunded system operating, today, with under 9.6% of Greece's gross domestic product and the largest fleet of doctors per patient, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development....]
Gifts for Christmas

On Sunday afternoon in Ano Korakiana under grey skies and drizzle, Mario Stasinopolou gave a talk on 'The role of music in society and its importance for the growing child'. He spoke in the refurbished restored hall of Ano Korakiana's Philharmonic Association, after which the band played, conducted by Spiro Metallinou; the afternoon ending with a flood of warm applause. (I can see our dear neighbour Lefteris - his broad back unmistakable - a full head of white hair on the right two rows from the foreground of the photo. We shall both be 70 next year - I on 29 March, he on 2 May 2012. We shall have a party!)
Κυριακή απόγευμα, με το ψιλόβροχο έτοιμο να κάνει αισθητή την παρουσία του, πραγματοποιήθηκε στην αίθουσα του Συνεταιρισμού εκδήλωση της Φιλαρμονικής μας, που περιελάμβανε ομιλία του κλινικού φαρμακοποιού MSc Στασινόπουλου Μάριου, με θέμα «Ο ρόλος της Μουσικής στην κοινωνία του ανθρώπου και η σημασία της στην καλλιέργεια του παιδιού, σήμερα». Στη συνέχεια η ευάριθμη Μπαντίνα της Φιλαρμονικής έδωσε το δικό της ελπιδοφόρο σήμα, υπό τη διεύθυνση του αρχιμουσικού Σπύρου Μεταλληνού…και φυσικά το ζεστό χειροκρότημα του κοινού που κατέκλυσε την αίθουσα.

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Simon Baddeley