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Sunday, 3 June 2012


A republican depression has assailed our Diamond Jubilee celebrations, spreading grisly weather across the land. This rain is wet, riding on gusts of chill wind.
Diamond Jubilee picnic on the allotments - Puligny-Montrachet in the rain
Perfect. I recall the weather at the Coronation in June 1953, when I helped at a village garden fête; 11 years old a long weekend escape from boarding school, running the air-rifle stand. My mum and stepfather had seats on the Mall courtesy of Hulton Press, returning that evening soaked and chilled to the bone. I won a fancy dress competition as Lord Nelson - or was I just highly commended? I remember it well. We watched the coronation on a black and white TV - a flickering screen about the size of an A4; invited with other villagers to a specially furnished scullery by Mr Macpherson of Bagnor Manor. I might have watched for about twenty minutes but lost attention, wanting to get back to my stand.
Bagnor on Google
On Google maps the D-shaped village green has some trees on it today; our house where we moved in 1951 is at the bottom right hand corner, the Manor on the far left. Bagnor was a hamlet once - poor and insecure for its leasehold tenants, who, by the 1960s when we left, were moving to council houses on the edge of town. Now Bagnor's a suburb close to golf courses, a theatre - a derelict watermill in whose dangerous ruins above the Lambourn we'd explore - and the second Newbury by-pass driven through my childhood in the early 1990s. I doubt there's a property less than £400K; ours, I notice, is for sale - guide price £865K (I wrote about Bagnor's transformation on the Ano Korakiana website - translated into Greek by Liana Metal)
Θυμάμαι τον πατέρα μου που ανέφερε ότι παρότι αγαπούσαμε το μέρος που θα ερχόμαστε να ζήσουμε για ένα μεγάλο μέρος του χρόνου, ήμασταν επίσης μέρος αυτού που μερικοί θεώρησαν ως καταστροφή της αγροτικής οικονομίας. Στη δεκαετία του '90 ξανα-επισκέφτηκα το Bagnor. Μετά βίας μπορούσες να το αναγνωρίσεις. Επρόκειτο  να διαμαρτυρηθώ εκεί μαζί με  χιλιάδες άλλους ενάντια στον αυτοκινητόδρομο που θα περνούσε μέσα από τα λιβάδια της παιδικής μου ηλικίας. Ο πατέρας μου έγραψε στα γηρατειά του, ότι η εισβολή ενάντια στην οποία διαμαρτυρόμουν τόσο σθεναρά (αλλά ειρηνικά), ήταν μέρος μιας αλλαγής που  είχε επιπτώσεις σε όλους μας και για την οποία ήμασταν όλοι εν μέρει υπεύθυνοι.
I remember my father who said that although we loved the place where we'd come to live for much of the time, we were also part of what some saw as the destruction of the rural economy. In the '90s we re-visited Bagnor. We could hardly recognize it. We were there to protest along with thousands of others against the highway would pass through the meadows of my childhood. My father wrote in his old age, that the invasion against which they protested so vigorously (but peacefully), was part of a change that affected us all and for which we were all partly responsible.
Brook House - my childhood home
Years later in 1977 a few of us helped organise a street party for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. Lin and I, before we married, lived at 1 Daisy Road, a treasured corner terrace by the Edgbaston reservoir, feeder for the Birmingham canal network. Lin was HM The Queen.  She arrived in the street, head and shoulders through the roof of a neighbour's 2CV. It rained, but not too much. Our BBQ was under an awning that spread from the from the small front of my house. I was, among other things, part of the entertainment - in a brown suit with bell-bottomed trousers and a double-vent jacket from Burton - at the mercy of the Bash Street Kids. 
"A dart in the double, throw a cup of water over Mr the treble, a bucket...a bull? Ask your dad to help"
Daisy Road - June 1977
Today we were to help with a street party in Haughton Road, Handsworth. Mike Tye phoned to say there was a switch to Holy Trinity Church Hall - opposite the Jame Masjid Mosque, almost below the blighting Birchfield flyover.
Lin and I out on warm clothes, raincoat, umbrella, grabbed some chocolate teacakes, and drove to Trinity Road looking for bunting. I'm not sure I wouldn't have preferred to stay in bed, but for an ancient maternal admonition.
"Go to things you think you mightn't enjoy. You never know, you might."
A bouncy castle had been inflated to the ceiling, swaying with small children, who probably didn't mind whether they were inside or out despite the cold and wet; noisy pop was playing; tables were covered in party food, including excellent samosas and pakora, chicken legs and lots of sandwiches all beside bowls of fresh strawberries, cakes and biscuits and there were people to brief on Handsworth Helping Hands, whose transit van had been used to carry things to the event. I told her, in summary, how we'd sold a tipper truck and wood chipper to recover solvency, relying now on the van and a mix of machine and manual tools, now kept secure in the Handsworth Park works compound, to do errands within the area arranged by word-of-mouth, part paid, part unpaid using volunteers and part-time labour. We spoke to Cllr Waseem Zaffir who is familiar with our progress and the vicar who'd let the party use the church hall, Rev Canon Eve Pitts.  She didn't know about us but asked good questions about the project which has already been up and working while Lin and I have been away.
Lin and Denise started tidying, I walked about with a grey plastic sack collecting litter. Parents began to turn up, having used the party for a few hours babysitting. Lin and Denise chatted catching up on things...
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Letter to a local council:
Dear X. It was good talking to you last Monday, starting as we plan to continue - a shared approach that spreads via an initial meeting, through the Leaders' Group, to the Management Conference and a gathering of Elected Members – or possibly – a combined Member-Officer event...The theme is ‘political space’ - the tag G used in her request. You might or might not want to expand that to ‘managing in a political environment’ or ‘leadership in a political environment’. Whatever is preferred, we’d be working on a theme like this:
POLITICAL SPACE IN X--- COUNCIL: A sequence of three in-house events will focus on skills, codes and values that strengthen trust between elected members and officers. The programme, subject to discussion with the CEO and lead managers, revolves around the conviction that good local government is where the best of politics and management combine...Each half-day seminar will build on learning from the previous one, aiming to:
 • assist managers to maintain their reading of the local political scene, • explore the skills and values basic to political-management working,
• offer models of competence and integrity in politically sensitive situations
• help members and officers negotiate the political-management overlap
These general goals can be refined in pre-meetings. Teaching style is participative, using a mix of discussion, handouts, locally relevant case studies and video to stimulate shared analysis and reflection. I would like to make myself as available as I can to allow joint planning of these events. Our next meeting is agreed, when It would be good if I could make a video of the Leader and Chief Executive as part of tailoring the programme to X. In addition (especially if a video is not made) I would like, ideally at the same time I’m meeting you, to arrange short interviews with senior officers in order to build up a repertoire of critical incidents (mini-case studies) of the types of issues that test relevant skills and values. We could generate these via a discussion at the Leaders meeting you and I will be attending. I would also like to organise an exercise that develops confidence in reading and mapping XXX political environment. We need maps of the Council showing ward boundaries and photos of members. This URL links to a clip that may give you a feel for the exercise I have in mind. I’ll explain more when we meet, including how to tailor this exercise to local context. I can email you information, with examples, before our first meeting, but I’m confident about holding back on detail until we meet. I sent you a draft video invitation as an attachment. Can you just check if the Chief Executive and the Leader favour this, then I can send a personalised letter and, with Y’s approval, a similar letter to Cllr G? If I get the go-ahead I’ll fix dates and let you know so that we can, if you want, have another meeting and you might like to sit in on the video session...
I enjoy these errands for local government on behalf of my university. These days, turning the extramural to the intra, I pack my bike pannier the night before, set the alarm for 5.30 and leave in a suit cycling to New Street; catch an express to Euston and feel my way south east down Gray’s Inn Road, along Holborn and Cheapside to Bank, walking against an office bound crowd down Lombard Street; down Fenchurch Street, looking out for the narrower road where the station’s yellow brick front its big clock keeps the hours tucked and angled into a plot between towering neighbours amid the comforting smell of morning coffee and new bread. A twenty minute journey to where the Thames widens in a landscape of fields dotted with concrete. A nan and her son sat by the passing landscape in conversation with their boy – a happy two year old talking, imitating, questioning
“That’s Rainham”
“Not raining, Rainham. It’s a place"
“A place”
Nearly across from them a child almost the same age, grizzled, tied in his pushchair, trying to get the attention of his mother on her mobile. I come to a small station with a level crossing which, after seeking directions, brought me to the civic officers. On the way I saw a small church built of knapped flint – St Peter and St Paul.
A fortnight ago, I’d freewheeled passed a church with a similar name below Sokraki on the way to Zygos as I headed to Pantokrator - Αγιος Πετρος και Αγιος Παυλος.
A woman said “we're just going to have communion”.
Six of us sat in a row in front of Christine, the vicar who'd welcomed me; a simple space, glass screened for warmth inside the larger church. Being Pentecost Πεντηκοστή – 27th May here, 3 May in Greece - the reading was from the Acts 2 where in Jerusalem καὶ ἐγένετο ἄφνω ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἦχος ὥσπερ φερομένης πνοῆς βιαίας, καὶ ἐπλήρωσεν ὅλον τὸν οἶκον οὗ ἦσαν καθήμενοι· and suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting and Galileans touched by cloven tongues of fire διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι ὡσεὶ πυρός speaking their provincial Aramaic, possessed by exaltation, were understood each in his own language by a cosmos of Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judaeans; people from Asia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Phrygia, Egypt, parts of Libya about Cyrene, Jews, Cretans and Arabians and strangers from Rome.
My meeting in the civic offices was a pleasure with intelligent enthusiasm from the officer who’d sought my involvement. In London again I worked on a day programme over a coffee and emailed it, then wanting to take a picture of my surroundings used Photobooth looking at my screen.
"Will you stop taking photo's of us" said a woman, one of three young US tourists at another table in camera view behind me. I'm a voyeur?
"So so sorry I'll delete the pictures at once"
I cycled on a mile north and stopped to see Stewart outside Bikefix in Lambs Conduit Street, among every kind of bicycle
I borrowed a pump to harden a front tyre. At Euston I tried again, playing the contrast between Ano Korakiana and this metropolis in which I feel as comfortable.
Extra-terrestrial on Euston Concourse
In Ano Korakiana various things:
1.Πραγματοποιήθηκε χθες το πρωί «επιχείρηση» καθαρισμού του μονοπατιού, που από τη δεξαμενή του Άη-Σίδερου οδηγεί στον Άη-Γιώργη και από εκεί για την άλλη άκρη του χωριού, τις Μουργάδες, προκειμένου να εντοπιστούν οι κρουνοί της πυροπροστασίας…

2.Ολοκληρώθηκαν χθες, Σάββατο το μεσημέρι, οι εργασίες του συνεταιριστικού ελαιοτριβείου για την ελαιοκομική περίοδο 2011-2012…

3.«Την 1ην Ιουνίου 1932, η Ρονού η Στάθω έσπασε την ξέστα του νερού της Ευγενίας του Μαδέλη εις το πηγάδι του Τσαγγαράκη, διατί επήγε δια νερό», αναφέρει το ημερολόγιο του Σπύρου Δημ.Κένταρχου (δύσκολες εποχές λειψυδρίας, βλέπετε).
4.Μετά τη Λειτουργία της Πεντηκοστής σήμερα το πρωί στον Άη-Θανάση, ακολούθησε Εσπερινός μετά γονυκλισίας, όπου μοιράστηκε και «βάγιο» από γαρύφαλλα και λεβάντα…
Το μεσημέρι το μακρύ τραπέζι στην καρυδιά του Μώρου περιελάμβανε εκτός των άλλων σκορδαλιά για «γενναίους» και για «λιποτάκτες», δια χειρός Ζαϊρας Γάκη. Ο κυρ Θόδωρος Στραβοράβδης προσέθεσε στο τραπέζι νόστιμα βερίκοκα από του Μαρμαρά και ο κυρ Σπύρος Μανιατόπουλος θυμήθηκε οπερέτες του Χατζηαποστόλου…Και η ώρα κύλησε έως το Τελευταία ανανέωση (03.06.12 )
1. Yesterday morning the work of clearing a path to identify fire hydrants between the reservoir of Ag.Sidero leading to Ag. Georgiou and from there to Mourgades at the other end of the village, was carried out...
2. At noon on Saturday the work of the Cooperative olive mill for the period 2011-2012 was completed…
3. 'On the 1st June 1932 Ronou Statho broke the earthenware pitcher belonging to Evgenia, wife of Mandelis at Tsagarakis' well after she went to fetch water' says the diary of Spiros Dim. Kentarhos. (Difficult times you see, due to water shortage)
4 After the Pentecost Service this morning at St. Thanassis, Vespers with 'kneeling' took place. They offered ‘vagia’* with carnations and lavender. At lunch-time the 'long-table' at Moros' Karidia, apart from other dishes, also included skordalia** for the 'brave' and the 'deserters', made by the able hands of Zaira Gaki. Mr. Thodosis Stravoravdis brought delicious apricots from Marmara and Mr. Spiros Maniatopoulos remembered operettas by Hatziapostolou. Time went by until the last renewal.
*Aleko reminds me that 'vagia'  is a cross made by the leaves of a palm tree and given by the churches on palm Sunday, but they can also be made with flower arrangements as mentioned above. I'm sure you've seen them.
**Skordalia - I'm  sure you've eaten it - a fierce (usually) garlic dip usually accompanying fish or fried courgettes and aubergines.
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Through Saturday as the weather grew greyer and colder I tackled the allotment, scything long grass with my short blade, topping weeds about to seed, clearing the ground around broad beans, young onions and cabbages - laying slug pellets around the latter - pulling out couch grass roots, tidying the vine, transferring cut grass and leaves from our garden to my big compost bags. Vanley came by and showed me how, amid the weeds in which they were growing, I could earth up my rows of potatoes. As usual he made it look easy.
"Leave the weeds once you've hoed them clear. They'll dry as soon as it's sunny.

He gives me permission to be messy - though his own plot is anything but. He notices I'd planted one row of onions too close
"Thin them. Take spring onions home"
I cleared weeds around the broad beans - the one's I'd though were runners when I planted them. I cleared between the onion rows; digging, tugging at nettles, grass and dock but not striving too conscientiously to clear everything. Relying sometimes on tapping away with the small hoe - showing I'm there.
It is a mess but in my heart I sense a tractable mess, an emerging plot. Wandering through the site later with Oscar dog, I gazed about, looking back now and then at my plot. Such variety. In places a gardener has 'got the plot'. The parallel is worn but apt, with each allotment a narrative, revealing the character and skill of the gardener. Seamus Heaney, whose poem is pinned to my shed, made this connection most famous - 'I've no spade to follow men like them' - working his ground with 'a squat pen'. There are so many different ways of organising an allotment - fascinating in itself to see or surmise intentions and their fruition. Some have gone for tight enclosure, covers, polytunnels and netting. Others are quite open, shrewdly disposed with maze-like paths allowing hoe-reach to each sowing; some are a swirling cottage garden mix that looks chaotic but aren't. These are successes. They work. In others I see where people are on the edge of surrender or have already retreated in the face of stony soil, implacable weeds or competing priorities in the world beyond the Victoria Jubilee Allotments. The remains of their efforts lie half hidden amid burgeoning summer flowers and tall seeding grasses.
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Charles Webster of Delta Leisure who've bought the licence from Endemol Entertainment to re-issue the 27 episodes of Out of Town that my stepfather, working with Steve Wade and colleagues made at Raven Cottage in 1986. These episodes of Out of Town have been increasingly unavailable as the previous licensee, Contender, had lost interest in retailing them. My royalties, which in line with Jack's wishes I share with Steve Wade's family have been getting less and less by the year. I'm hoping that Delta has the outlets and marketing capability to raise more in royalties which will help towards working with the archive of silent film and sound tape I've brought to Birmingham.
Copies of Jack Hargreaves' 9 volume 27 episode re-issued DVDs
Here's one of Delta's sales outlets via the Daily Express...

JACK HARGREAVES OUT OF TOWN SERIES 1-9. Join popular countryman Jack Hargreaves, as he embarks on a series of delightful expeditions through the English countryside. Enjoy his unrivalled knowledge of the simple life - from angling to horsing and nature to gardening - and reminisce about how things used to be when the countryside was still in the sole preserve of country folk. Volume 1 Appleby Fair, Volume 2 Sheep Shearing, Volume 3 Market Day, Volume 4 Lambing, Volume 5 Bee Skips, Volume 6 The Hidden Stream, Volume 7 Stour River, Volume 8 Freeze Branding and Volume 9 Cod Fishing. Each Volume contains 3 Episodes. Each volume just £5.99 each or order all 9 for just £44.95.

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Monday morning and an email announces Richard Pine's latest Letter from Greece in The Irish Times, which I tweet, pass on to Facebook and recommend - with 3 keystrokes on the buttons above and below the text I'm reading on screen:
....Pressure from EU figures such as Germany chancellor Angela Merkel is mounting. A recent cartoon in the newspaper Kathimerini showed loudspeakers hectoring the crowd: “Greeks, we can’t govern you due to how you voted, so you will have to go back to the polls until our demands are met.” Merkel has allegedly urged the Greek president to conduct a referendum at the same time as the election. Perhaps she doesn’t realise that that is precisely what the election is: a referendum on the euro versus the drachma, each of which points to economic disaster for years to come, unless some middle road can be found.  Apart from the fact that a victory for Syriza, with Tsipras at its head, would precipitate a European crisis, there is a question mark over his capacity, at 37, to head a government with such responsibilities. His body language is refreshing but at a presidential conference with the leaders of Pasok and ND he appeared naive and ill-at-ease – the brightest boy in the classroom, perhaps, but outclassed in deportment by ND leader Antonis Samaras, who simply looked bored and moody, and Pasok’s Evangelos Venizelos, who smilingly courted the photographers.
Αλέξης Τσίπρας
The greatest economic obstacles facing any government which adheres to the bailout memorandum are tax reform, selling state assets and slimming down the civil service, while the conceptual problems are reform of the education system, deregulation of the 'protected' or closed professions, and elimination of bribery. Yet it is not bribery itself that has to be eradicated but the need for bribery necessitated by the top-heavy bureaucracy where officials accept 'fakelaki' (little brown envelopes) to speed up the system.... (Interview in Kathimerini - 4/6/12 - with Alex Tsipras)
As I said goodbye to S last week, leaving cash for any bills between now and our return, I said "There'll have been some water under the bridge by the last week of August?"
"Greeks will decide" she said in her matter-of-fact way "If they vote for SIRIZA they mean to go back to the drachma and take the consequences; if for New Democracy they will have chosen more austerity. They will live with what they choose."
I have only now come across a piece translated from the German - an analysis by Petros Markaris of the roots of the current economic crisis in Greece - The Lights are going out in Athens - translated by Stefanos Christoforos, author of the blog, Breach of Close which includes more on 'the crisis'
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My friend John Martin, unlike me a class cyclist who's retraced some of the great Alpine climbs of the Tour, continues his shared cycle voyage across great Canada... search of sustainable communities and tips on methodology - note-taking in the saddle - and a coyote attack..(text and film links).
We were heading south with a big tail wind doing about 35km/hr on the main highway between Saskatoon and Regina. I was in the front and John behind when a coyote came running out from the median strip of the dual highway clearly intent on trying to bring John down. I look over my shoulder as John is shouting for me to “go faster”, “don’t stop” and I didn’t need much encouragement. Even at 35-40km/hr the coyote was right at John’s side nipping at his left shoe as he was trying to kick it away. This was pretty frightening stuff as it wasn’t like a dog chasing you in the street that gives up after a few barks. This animal had real intent, quite calm and we were amazed that we couldn’t make any reasonable distance on it. This was particularly hard for John as was also trying to kick the coyote away, managing to connect with its head a few times as he was swerving all over the road. John was shouting at it in a desperate attempt to scare it away but this also made little difference. This was heart pumping stuff and our legs were tiring. We had gone about 2km and we still couldn’t shake it. When will this end? How can a coyote run this far at such a speed?....:
 From research notes:...Across British Columbia, Alberta and now in Saskatchewan we have visited communities including the large cities to small towns, on farms and intentional (Hudderite Colony) communities. All of these places share common challenges: the diversity of their economic base determines their experience of boom to bust times; the way in which they cooperate as a community determines their ability to cope with both boom and bust; and, the way in which they are formally organised determines their ability to institutionalise new ways of working beyond the energy and innovation of those individual leaders who take action, yet are rare....From the mountain communities to the great plains of north America distance still remains an issue, regardless of what can be done with communications technology. It is the close affiliation that occurs in communities that is the source of innovation and change, both economic, social and institutional...

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Simon Baddeley