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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Rain came

Richard and Emma leaving for England
Richard and Emma left us yesterday. The weather switched to grey, to showers then thunderstorms beginning as usual over the ridge of Trompetta as the south wind blows up the slopes creating clouds that by evening were bursting torrents as the system shorted itself in lightning and thunder. We watched the weather from inside the house but earlier I’d cycled to the harbour at Ipsos carrying the cockpit cover for Summersong which Mark had mended adding a sturdy length of extra material with six eyelets with which, threaded with cord, I could tent it on the boom avoiding a heavy basin of rain-water above the cockpit after a storm. As I tied toggles making the cover fast, the boat swayed beneath my shifting weight and the small swell round the digue, her mast and halliards clapping in the gusts.
Summersong at Ipsos
As I left the harbour the rain that had blown lightly with the breeze became heavier, dropping in heavy perpendiculars, soaking me as I cycled along the seafront and pedaled up the hill through Pyrgi, Agios Markos and the straighter stretch to Ano Korakiana, lightning and raucous thunder all about earthy water streaming across the road, rivulets frothing down steps, building and dispersing dykes of grass, twigs and leaves.
“Wooo! Wooo!” I cried “Ha ha!” to the storm, my body warm and dry beneath my waterproof, my jeans sopping and heavy.
“You idiot!” said Lin as I arrived unpealing below the veranda, hanging things out to drip, spraying my cycle’s moving parts with dispersant, crumpling inside my sodden leather brogues bits of an English newspaper from Richard and Emma’s plane last week covered in week-staled headlines, before drying indoors to gaze through the windows at the rest of the show.
On my way to Ipsos earlier I ran into Alan B strolling in Ag.Markos. We exchanged greetings on the edge of brusque.
This was an acquaintanceship I valued –
as Alan remarked “You got your balcony and porch”
I replied “We get pleasure from it every day as do all who see it”
- and one we hoped had become a friendship.
The negotiation, while we were out of Greece, of the building of ‘the balcony’ and then ‘the porch’ to Alan’s design by skype, phone and email had released, as cyberchat can more unreliably than face-to-face conversation, remarks that became engraved as slights. One word for which Lin knew at the time was misconstrued as applying to the whole project, had been her comment that a proposed overarching supporting stay, for the balcony’s railings, actually never built but included in a photoshop sketch attached to an e-mail, looked ‘botched’; as well remark to Mozart that a piece contained too many notes, or “Scribble, scribble, scribble, Mr Gibbon?"
I’m glad we met. If people built and designed houses and parts of houses as Alan Barrett has in Corfu, there'd be no complaint against the island’s bad and ugly buildings. There'd be none.
Alan's balcony and porch on our house
** ** **
I finished Little Dorrit. Not a story easily told like Oliver Twist or a Tale of Two Cities or a Christmas Carol and not picaresque like The Pickwick Papers which can be taken as they come without the need to follow the thread. In Little Dorrit sub-plots and wonderfully funny and grotesque characters are embroidered into a vaguer narrative that seems to run independent of the caste I met and enjoyed, submerged by Dickens’ animus against national institutional incompetence and resigned acceptance of injustice as providence. I learn that a provisional title was Nobody’s Fault. I like strong women but Little Dorrit’s strengths remind me of the resilience of chamois. She soaks up other’s stupidity, absorbs their self-deceptions, is the novel’s cleaner – often literally. For types of strong women I prefer Elizabeth Bennett. Now I’m started on Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, a book whose sheer size has scared me, but I took a run at its early pages, regularly checking back to the family trees at the start – Mehras, Kapoors, Khans and Chatterjis – and now by page 303 of this 1474 page monster I’m engrossed, but pacing myself as for a marathon or a pedal up to Pantokrator, something I’ve not yet dared.
I bought Gowers' 1965 revision of Fowler’s Modern English Usage at a table top sale in Kontokali, emerging chastened from entries on BATTERED ORNAMENTS, HACKNEYED PHRASES, IRRELEVANT ALLUSION, PEDANTIC or POLYSYLLABIC HUMOUR (of precocious children 'a clever habit applauded at home will make them insufferable abroad') POPULARIZED TECHNICALITIES (‘But any gratification they give to their users is at the cost of the harm done to the language by wearing down the points of words which, one suspects, may not always have been very sharp, even when confined to esoteric use’), see also CLICHÉ, WORN-OUT HUMOUR and...
DIDACTICISM The speaker who has discovered that Juan and Quixote are not pronounced in Spain as he used to pronounce them as a boy is not content to keep so important a piece of information to himself; he must have the rest of us call them Hwan and Keehotay; at any rate he will give us the chance of mending our ignorant ways by doing so.
I'd long thought Fowler had written a sort of enlarged dictionary for which there are substitutes – The Oxford English and Roget for a start. Now I discover this is a book of pungent essays - some three lines long; a delight. On the semi-colon which I find as useful as an Irwin Vise and use as indiscriminately...
Fowler: The use of semicolons to separate parallel expressions that would normally be separated by commas is not in itself illegitimate; but it must not be done when the expressions so separated form a group that is itself separated by nothing more than a comma, if that, from another part of the sentence. To do this is to make the less include the greater, which is absurd….
...and on ‘hyphens’ which I find as useful as a Brummie screwdriver, he writes:
No attempt will be made here to describe modern English usage in the matter of hyphens; its infinite variety defies description
...following this reassuring permission with a two page essay. As Gowers remarks, Fowler as a grammarian was both iconoclast and authority, like Richard Dawkins whose generalised dismissal of religion sometimes seems to involve clearing space for a religion of science, such is his faith in its methods and rituals. Dawkins tests my atheism. Few get angrier and more eloquent than the truly religious analysing the use of belief to justify hatred and cruelty, and alerting us to snake oil, quackery and the consequences of casuistry to assess the acceptability – to a percentage – of collateral risk attending a drone strike on a target near a school or wedding; that theology offers as fine a capacity as any intellectual discipline – including quantum physics – for exposing the depravity of those who murder and rape for god. His dismissal of revelation as a source of knowledge and understanding seems bizarre. Revelation and deduction are partners – the insight that had immeasurable and unquantifiable Archimedes leaping from his bath crying εύρηκα, Newton struck by a falling apple thinking 'gravity', Fleming noting mould growing in a used Petri dish, Galileo sighting the five moons of Jupiter through his telescope, the reverie that saw the Benzene ring (ha! 'the taste of love is sweet, when ours meet'); dreams, odd moments when an insight comes in a flash. Of course Dawkins knows this; knows that deduction precedes and succeeds revelation. His animus is against revelation without deduction; revelation as authoritative. But I doubt that deduction without revelation leads to discovery. A revelation is needed to deduce what has been discovered, as in dead reckoning, an estimated position is prerequisite for an exact. I play with words and St Thomas is my favourite saint.

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Simon Baddeley