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Friday, 7 September 2012

Ordinary things

With sunset a big smiling child’s moon rises over the mainland, slowing with nightfall. It’s waning; growing gibbous by tomorrow, a faint skull in the midday blue. In the morning I’d cycled to post letters at Tzavros and buy melons for a supper with friends. At Emeral, baker and confiseur to all north Corfu,  I stopped to buy a spinach pie, green sandwiched in crisp oiled filo. Wasps were queueing to drown in a bottle trap by a display window.
I wheeled across the busy road and waited for a clear patch, surmising a tale of love and romance in a gutter of dried eucalyptus and oleander leaves.
Straggling grey clouds that by today will produce rain brought intervals of shade as weighed with melons I made the slow ascent to Ano Korakiana, resting at Marmara Granita where the same voguish poster’s been on display for six years...
... stopping again before the steepest climb below the village to drink water and enjoy the pie.
We started with melons, cut in sweet crescents – with thin cut prosciutto – eight of us at the table downstairs. Actually nine. Little Estelle, daughter to Nick and Nancy, is sitting at table unsure - amid all this grown-up chatter - if that’s preferable to being fed separately on such evenings. Mark and Sally, and Paul and Cinta, are also guests. Main course, cooked by Lin on a stove moved under the veranda for cool, rice and chicken in cream sauce with onions, mushrooms and peppers, then a trifle improvised from jelly, peaches, tiramisu, Greek brandy, custard, cherry liqueur, peaches, topped with cream mixed with yogurt and vanilla, and served from the fridge. There might have been some pauses in our chat but I don’t recall.
“Have you seen the Paralympics? Fantastic. If I have someone who says they’ve got a strain or something, can’t work, I’ll just scoff and tell them to get on with it.”
We ran through the inventive repertoire of boron space-age alloyed gadgetry supplementing will and guts
“What about the clay pigeon shooter, Simon? They were blind!”
It’s a sign of the mighty increment of expectations about disability that I was already conjecturing high speed echo sounders copied from bats before I realising my leg was being pulled.
“Ha ha ha. It’ll happen tho’”…
We contemplated how the C-word had replaced the F-word.
“What’ll be left for Estelle, when she's older, as her worst curse?”
“Can there be any better swearword – especially as it’s less easy for fools to use as a lazy substitute adjective?”...
“Wasn’t the Great Ormond Street display good at the 2012 opening ceremony?” I was asking Nick who works in the NHS
“You know” he said “that was the first time people outside the UK have heard of the NHS.”
“What that was all about? Waltzing docs and nurses and bouncing infant patients”
“Yes. Puzzled by a lot of it!”
“NHS are thinking of going worldwide – opening branches overseas” added Nick “Their logo got such coverage.”
“Clever Boyle!”...
I heard a reference to cash flow blips at an island supermarket chain
Sconto shelves were right down”
“They were fine when I went there”...
We spoke of baby-kit, the push chair in full working order we’d retrieved from by the bins, for Oliver when he comes
“They don’t do second hand baby things here!” said Nancy...
“There was a dead fox on the road”
“Down by…”
“I put it in the hedge, planning to come back for a skull. A few days later, nothing”
“Maggots, rats, cats, dogs, and flies”...
“There was this shop where women could buy men” told Cinty “First floor full of handsomes; second floor, same thing but handsome men looking after children; third floor - you can’t go back to shop on the previous - same as second, but they're rich”
“...and the fourth floor?”
“You’re on the roof …and there’s another shop for men with lots of breasty dolly birds”
“So what’s on the second floor?”
“It’s a bungalow”...
Paul had been at some sort of event for local business
“Stelios was there from Easyjet. He was saying the tax on travellers was getting so high for Greek destinations it wasn’t the business he was in.”
“So Easyjet may pull out of Corfu?”
“ have Ryanair for the winter flights they began last year”
“At least we have discretion with travel dates” I said “We’d probably do more journeys that combine flights, train, coach and ferry, with stops on the way” I thought of buying prosciutto and new bread while changing at Bologna, or grazing in Venice and having ice cream in Bari before a winter ferry to Igoumenitsa
“But it’s pretty shortsighted discouraging cheap airlines”
“It may be nothing to do with Greece, more the general push for higher carbon taxes”
“The Adriatic ferries are hardly emission clean”...
We spoke of water in the village getting harder, leaving calcium deposits in glasses, gumming up pipes. “Yes the demos is getting pushier about using water that used to be for the Korakianers. We’re now serving water from up here all the way down to Dassia. It’s been the best quality on the island and still abundant. I’ve read several pieces on the village website about meetings with official protesting about what’s happening to it”
“You know that between Kassiopi and Nissaki”said Paul “water is rationed. One day on. One day off.” “Blimey. You mean no washing?”
“They have to use reserves in the hotels in summer”
“Too many ruddy swimming pools” I said, winking at my hypocrisy
“We pay for every litre of ours” said Nancy
“But why in an island with the most beautiful seashores in the whole Mediterranean is the current height of luxury a private horizon pool”
“It’s what people have come to expect”
“Yes and because the beaches aren’t perfect anymore”
“Wait a mo’. Do you know what went into the sea when the Durrell’s were hear 80 years ago writing how idyllic it was?” said Cinty
“Yeah yeah. Raw sewage, food waste, the lot. But there weren’t so nearly many people about. Things had time to get clean”
“So even more plastic bottled water. When will that be sorted?”
“I heard from a woman we were chatting to in Ipso that her village - Neri in Viterbo - in Italy has agreed a communal spring paid for by general rates from which you can fill permanent containers. The idea is spreading to other communities” (I could find no reference to this on the web)
“Great and we’ve closed the last public taps here. Remember there was one in Analipsi and another by the harbour at Ipsos”...
Lin and I chatted in the kitchen later as we shared the washing up, shifted back chairs and cushions.
"That was good?"
"Yes. It was very good"
*** ***
The other evening we watched The Snowtown Murders directed by Justin Kerzel, shown first at Adelaide Film Festival in 2010. It wasn’t entertainment; a fine fictionalised account of a series of murders in Australia by a gang of men, led by John Bunting, played by David Henshall, a man I’d like to meet just to reassure myself that the actor is really a decent highly talented human being. There’s no wanton violence, no obvious blood and guts, except for two kangaroo corpses being chopped up and pulverised, so that their remains can be strewn across the bungalow stoop of a neighbouring paedophile on bail. This is a film about unnoticed people torturing and killing people even less noticed. The film was supported by the Australian Government – step forward that good civil servant for the arts. The unmusical sound track by Jed Kurzel is a perfect accompaniment to procession of scenes, mumbling silences, repetitive cackling – the non-communication of a population whose wit and intelligence has been relentlessly leached away by meritocracy. In these flat suburbs depravity breeds and excuses depravity. Fledgling decency loses over and over to wanton beer gut bullying. If ever there was a film to dispel the aura of glamour that in the last twenty years has been hung by some writers and film-makers round the neck of mass murderers, this was it. Was it that brilliant new type of documentary – In Cold Blood – that shifted us into greater shared ambivalence, debrutalised brutality; made us complicit in shades of grey (there’s some barrel scraping!), set us on the route of tout comprendre...tout pardonner? I wonder if Antony Hopkins should do penance for Hannibal Lector as the great Marlon Brando refused an Oscar and took up a native American cause as penance for making Don Corleone into a hero, instead of what such a man would have become in front of Justin Kurzel’s lens. There are woman taken with murderers who write love letters to them in prison. This film cued that piece of me that now and then can feel the rare deadness inside that must represent despair, not just sadness but the numb apathy of clinical depression. If ever the particulars of modern poverty could be put on film this succeeded; a gripping exercise in making evil’s banality watchable. (A recent NY Times review)
*** ***
Around noon on Thursday there was the abrupt and unfamiliar patter of rain, increasing until, for half an hour or more, water was running beige, sluicing months of summer dust off the roof, washing dried leaves down the path by the house. I shoved a bowl under a downpipe - a soft water treat for the flowers. When the sun came out again I hung washing in a gentle breeze from the west. “From now our weather will start to get nicer”
*** ***
Recipe for an al fresco meal off Democracy Street
- Place one table outside house (this doesn’t normally work in England)
- Add four chairs
- Add a bowl of olives
- Add glasses and a bottle of wine
Look over neighbour’s garden wall, peer into the other’s front yard
Beckon with head and arms saying “Hi. Come. Some wine?” “Ya. Ela’tho. Thelis krassi?”
When neighbours approach, and politely hesitate, beckon again and say “Sit, sit!” “Katzi katzi!”
- Pour wine. “Yammas!” Clink glasses and drink (repeat throughout)
Neighbour women disappear and reappear with a large plate of small fresh just fried fish and basket of fresh bread (or equivalent)
Neighbour calls into her garden/yard
Young man and women – very good looking – appear, with more wine
Add more chairs, glasses and plates
Sit. “Katzi. Yammas etc”
Continue serving wine, repeating process as more neighbours arrive
(If necessary fetch second table, join it with the other and add chairs)
Lightly baste with conversation adding laughter to taste plus children and cats standing around; others waving and greeting as they pass.
(Thanks to our neighbours Effie, Adoni, Lefteri and Vasiliki for this excellent recipe)
*** ***
Simon Winter of Kaleidoscope who co-authored the accompanying booklet that goes with the DVD set has just sent me the link to Delta's website devoted to the issue of 34 original Out of Town programmes by Jack that will be coming out next month.

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Simon Baddeley