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Tuesday, 13 November 2012


On the television a parade of anodyne images on BabyTV now and then distracts Oliver as we work on mum's estate, cancelling accounts, checking on the continued needs of the house - energy, phone, maintenance, insurance and the continued completion of forms for the state - death and tax. Detailed, banal, tedious - with all the repetitive labour of proving identity through the computerised interrogations that accompany more or less all phone transactions, until, at last, a human voice emerges from the cyber-babble. Even when "hullo-I'm-Beth-how-can-I-help-you-today" can't help it feels like a  relief after waiting on "we-are receiving-a-high-volume-of-calls-all-our-lines-are-busy". We are always immaculately civil to whoever we finally get to talk to, lest we be thrown back into white noise; some of the people contacted really are helpful despite what must be the tedium of their work.
Over Greece there are arguments among the great and the good of Europe about allowing the republic another two years to clear its debts. But I see no bail-out assurance.
Christine Lagarde: "Austerity Doesn't Work, It is clear from history"
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Weeping is the expression of grief; keening too. It's less painful than the dull ache that takes residence - has taken residence - in the pit of my stomach, sitting there heavily like ill-digested food. I was driving Richard to the airport on Sunday, as unpleasant a ride as every remembered drive back to boarding school - when I first learned sadness, an apprenticed to the craft of easy chat amid despondency. I drove a familiar way that had changed forever - past Inverarnie Wood, two miles beside the Nairn to the dual carriageway then the right turn down the neat narrow road towards Croy on the edge of Drummosie Muir; a grey sky and gathering dusk with small houses and lighted windows, arriving at Culloden, joining the old high road between Nairn and Inverness until Clava Viaduct was in sight a little below us. I turned south on an even narrower road to the Clava Stones...
...where one winter solstice my mother had gone alone to see the setting sun aligned with the narrow path into the cairns. She'd studied them; read much conjecture, found these relics as fascinating as the Pyramids, almost their contemporary. The Clava Stones are chill in winter; too unassuming to be much visited even in summer. She enjoyed them and as I strolled there with Richard in the hour before his flight, I thought it typical that she should have come here on her own one frosty December; seen her shadow on the standing stone before one of the passage graves and found it irresistible to capture the moment. She'd mentioned this once, some years ago, and shared her photos. I don't remember being especially interested. I often visited the place with her - enjoying the journey, our conversation and successive generations of dogs dashing keenly to and fro between these ancient scattered stones, then going on somewhere else...
,,,as now I did with Richard, heading for the airport, driving on a mile to the Highland Foodstop at Gollanfield and ordering take-away fish and chips we ate parked at the edge of the airport.
Richard and the terriers at the Clava Cairns
I dropped Richard at Dalcross and drove back to Brin Croft the same way I'd come. Lin. Amy, Liz and Oliver were out. I had the house to myself a while. It's a comfy place to be and does not emanate the sadness I feel as I pass through its surroundings.
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What a pleasurable distraction to have come across a new Italian crime procedural about a private detective - Yuri Castagnetti who keeps bees, and is hired by a businessman to find out who set fire to his car....

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Tuesday morning we were with Robert at the Beaufort Hotel on the Culdulthel Road discussing food and drink after a Memorial Service for mum on the 8 December. I've sketchy thoughts as to how this will be organised.
In London my nephew's wife Alessandra sends news to the families...
...Indie Bay Hedda was born at 11.24 on the 11.11.12.
Like her brothers she loves her food and is already back to birth weight.
The chaos is really rather lovely! Love....
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On Wednesday I flew to Birmingham to lecture on 'sensitivity at the political-management interface' for Philip Whiteman's Community Governance and Leadership Module; we've secured work with the London Borough of Hounslow on coaching scrutiny chairs against strong competition; the postponed in-house event on Political Sensitivity for Managers for South Gloucestershire has a new date just after Christmas. I feel busy.
I had a pleasant early supper at Café Soya with Richard and Emma, joined by her mum, Karen. Richard drove me home - my bicycle in the back. Awaiting in the house was a large parcel containing two complementary copies of the just issued DVD box-set of original Out of Town programmes published by Delta, along with a leaflet containing an article I contributed about Jack and an account by Simon Winters of how these films had only come to light near the end of 2011. I left a voice message for Charles Webster at Delta congratulating him and his colleagues for all the time and energy - and cash - they've put into bringing this project to fruition.

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I sent an email to Corfu about Summer Song:
Dear Dave. It’s coming towards the time when we’d hoped Summer Song might be lifted onto the shore next to Ipsos harbour and ready for work on her replacement engine. How are things? Can I help from here? Love to Trish. Best wishes
The reply:
Simon. I have sorted out the should be out next  week if everything goes to plan but we are in Corfu...things tend to go a little side ways here regards Dave
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In Ano Korakiana a 2013 fund-raising calendar to help in difficult times - τη δύσκολη περίοδο που διανύουμε - has been prepared by Elvira Metallinou showing off the village's athletic association and the musical association's dancers... with twelve photos by Andreas Pagiatakis.
Κοινό ημερολόγιο ετοίμασαν φέτος και κυκλοφορούν ήδη ο Μουσικός και ο Αθλητικός Σύλλογος του χωριού μας. Από την πλευρά του πρώτου, μέσω του ημερολογίου προβάλλεται το Χορευτικό τμήμα και από την πλευρά του δεύτερου, η «ομάδα», ο ΠΑΟΚ. Σε κάθε μήνα του νέου έτους αντιστοιχεί ένα ωραίο φωτογραφικό τρίπτυχο, που συνθέτει στοιχεία από τα δύο σωματεία και το χωριό. Το σχεδιασμό του ανέλαβε η Ελβίρα Μεταλληνού και τις φωτογραφίες διέθεσε ο Ανδρέας Παγιατάκης. Πρόκειται για μια προσπάθεια οικονομικής ενίσχυσης των δύο Συλλόγων τη δύσκολη περίοδο που διανύουμε...
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A research query about allotments:
Dear allotment holder. I am a keen allotment holder studying in my third year the University of York and in need of your help. I am studying Environmental Geography and currently researching what benefits working on an allotment can provide and
why we value the land on which we grow. I am interested in finding out what motivates people to keep allotments and what benefits they receive in return. What drives people in rain and shine to give up time, energy and funds and dig the soil? I am aiming to gather results to help better understand the value of allotments to society, which is important for their future protection. I want to discover the benefits that are enjoyed all year round by allotment holders and not just at harvest time. I would really like to know your opinion and if you have a few minutes spare would be very grateful if you could fill in a questionnaire.
Please click on the link or copy it into your browser if you are interested. If you could forward this message to anyone else who would be interested in filling it in, it would be much appreciated. my email is: and my telephone number: 07824345355. Thank you for your help! Yours Sincerely, Anna-Louise Godleman
Dear Anna-Louise. I’ve just filled in your very professional on-line questionnaire. Good luck with your research.This is an intriguing subject - in both senses of that word. Allotments - as I am sure you know - were originally 'allotted' to working men forced into cities by changes in agriculture. They enjoy considerable legal protection, e.g. our 200m2 plot would be worth several £1000 a year in rent if it were built on, but I pay less than £20 a year (senior concession) to rent it. I’m to that extent subsidised and protected by an Act of Parliament dating back to 1908. This protection is trickier to guarantee at these rates as allotments become more and more a middle class hobby, with a few superb exceptions among people who really know how to work their land and to prepare, cook and eat what they grow on it.
I - from generations of urban professionals - have to somehow transform my class relationship with this urban space if I am truly to become capable of farming public land. Otherwise why not just use my private back garden as a place to grow food? It's about the same size as my plot on the Victoria Jubilee Allotments. It's tricky when you think about the realities of urban land economics to justify allotments as places for health and spiritual renewal. Allotments. whether we call them that or urban small holdings or city farms, should be places where we grow what we eat more efficiently than shooting off to buy our food at the crowded food-mile palaces that have spread across the greater part of the modern world as the retail arm of intensified food growing. The other less material benefits of allotments will follow on the pursuit of that central objective - one that at the moment will be seen by many as being as unrealistic - even bizarre - as once it seemed to talk about ending the slave trade or introducing female suffrage.
I haven’t even mentioned livestock - especially chickens and other fowl, although there is a beehive on my plot.
I do hope you have an opportunity to connect with Dr Richard WiltshireRichard has been a friend over a decade and knows as much as anyone in the country about the politics of urban land use and their implications for growing food. He was the main author of 'Growing in the Community' the report that helped shift the last government’s thinking on allotments - as being not just about recreation but about sustainable agriculture.
See my blog pages on this - here and here - if you have a moment. Best wishes, Simon, Handsworth Allotments Information Group (HAIG)
Dear Simon, Thank you for your very interesting comments and the referral to Dr Richard Wiltshire. I am finding that the subject is producing some intriguing data and differing opinions. I am focusing most on the cultural ecosystem services provided by allotments, as you might have noticed in the questionnaire. The data I have collected so far is indicating that the majority of allotment users are growing principally for reasons other than sustenance. With increasing pressure on food sustainability and security though and rising prices it is easy to see that efficient urban farms will be an essential part of the future. One of the reasons I chose this project is a conversation I had when I used to volunteer at Kew Gardens. I was speaking to a Polish colleague who asked me why I was interested in horticulture and I told him it all started because I enjoyed spending time at the allotment. He told me about how this surprised him as in his neighbourhood it was essential to grow your own to survive, everyone had to whether they enjoyed it or not. Clearly he had a completely different relationship with his plot of land. It will be interesting to see whether those people who are growing in a self sustaining manner are experiencing the cultural services to the same extent as those growing for other reasons. I'm sure that the best of both worlds is something more like a community plot where you can rely on more hands to successfully work the land and enjoy the social aspects simultaneously. I will certainly refer to your blogs with interest. I am currently in a largely data collection phase of my project but once I have had a detailed look at the data I may have some more questions. Would you mind if I e-mailed you regarding this at a later date? Kind Regards Anna-Louise Godleman

1 comment:

  1. Dear Simon

    Sincere condolences for your recent loss. My thoughts are with you.


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Simon Baddeley