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Sunday, 3 March 2013


We slipped out of Ano Korakiana during a rain shower and caught one of the smaller ferries to Igoumenitsa - fares reduced 50%, it said 'military' on our tickets.  It was dark on the mainland and we dragged our bags along the rutted concrete to the Adriatic terminal, strewn with large friendly dogs and people watching TV football. We checked in to wait for hours for the Superfast ferry to Bari. We are familiar with this place. No-one we ask behind a glass screen is ever able to tell us just when these boats, equipped with 21st century communication technology and time to milliseconds, will arrive and depart. At best it's "soon" and "maybe". The digital arrival and departure signs are inscrutable, announcing events that don't quite occur. In the end we were on quay10 as a behemoth backed slowly up to the dock and lowered its ramps gently onto the concrete, inviting coaches, trucks and walking passengers to board.

We settle in the semi-darkness of the airseat lounge; stretch across several seats, sleep - fitfully - amid the rumble of the ship. In the morning the moon's still up, the sea mildly ruffled...

... and our time of arrival familiarly untrustworthy, an A4 sheet cellotaped on the purser's counter - so she needn't repeat herself - says 'ETA 11.00am Greek time'. By 11.00, land, which has appeared intermittently to port, is vaguely visible to the north east. Then a sharp turn and Bari mole emerged from the haze. By 1120 - 1020 local time - we were boarding Bus /20, buying tickets on board and being driven circuitously through chicanes out of the harbour and to Bari Station. On platform 3 we sat in the sun, ate our picnic, drank wine from plastic cups and read, until, after two hours, the express train to Rome drew in and we took up our reservations. After a stop in Foggia, our route turned west across Italy. At 4pm we dropped off at Caserta and crossed the platform for a double decker stopping train to Naples, where we'd been seven weeks earlier.
A man with a bicycle in a field south of Caserta

Small unfinished plots drifted by. I snoozed and read. The hotel had lost our reservation and was full. The receptionist phoned around and got us a room at the same price in the Hotel de la Ville on the opposite side of the square. We ate as we had when last in Naples, at Da Ettore...then to bed to catch a bus in the morning.
At the stop outside Central Station we were intercepted by a taxi driver who promised to take us to the airport quicker than the bus
"Just give me your bus tickets"
Inside the cab he asked for €10 more.
"Oh no" says Lin "we agreed just our tickets"
But at Departures I gave him €5.
"You're too soft, Baddeley"
He shrugged and we were dropped at the airport -  only a few miles away.  In the terminal we had deep chocolate ice cream and more reading.
Another hour and we were away to England, a train to London from Gatwick, then a coach to Birmingham and - our only one - a taxi home. We'd left the village at four on Wednesday afternoon and were home by 8.30pm Friday.
Leaving Naples

*** *** ***
In our hotel I'd had an email from Mike Tye in Handsworth - some passages in red:
Hope you can all make Monday night's Special Ward meeting at Welford School, 7pm. We need to be of one voice against these proposals to reduce services...(attachment)
Service changes to make waste management savings – February 7, 2013 Posted by Cllr McKay. A number of changes to waste collection services have been announced by Birmingham City Council in its 2013/14 budget following central government cuts to the authority’s finances.
For the 2013/14 financial year the council’s overall savings requirement is £102million. Of this, £6.57million relates to waste services and includes:
Bulky waste: providing households with ONE free collection per year (maximum 6 items). For each subsequent collection (maximum 6 items), there will be a charge of £25 per collection. This compares to the existing system of 3 free collections per year, with a maximum of 6 items per collection. The new charge is in line with fees charged by other councils (that typically range from £15 to £44).
Special street collections: A city-wide subsidy is being dropped, meaning that individual districts will have to use their own budgets if they wish to continue this service, which is a service uncommon amongst local authorities. These collections are a service that gives residents in an area a fixed day(s) beyond regular bin collection dates on which to put out additional bulky waste items out, to be collected by the council at no cost to the households taking advantage.
The provision of black and green sacks: The council spends £1million per year issuing one sack per week to households. Many residents already buy their own waste sacks. Residents will now be required to provide all of their own sacks from April 1, ahead of the council plan to roll out wheelie bins at a later date.
Green waste collections: In line with many other local authorities, the council will introduce a chargeable service from February/March 2014. This will be an optional service, and those wishing to take advantage will be given a free 240-litre wheeled bin. The annual collection charge, to be paid in advance, will be £35. Those not wishing to take up the service will have the option of buying a composter, at cost, via the council’s website. Fees charged by other councils who provide this service generally range from £18 to £56.
In addition to this, other measures are set to be introduced to meet the budget challenge caused by the cuts. They include:
City centre street cleansing: There will be a reduction in the overall level of cleaning – but there will be no compulsory redundancies. However the council is introducing larger capacity bins, fitted with a compactor to reduce emptying frequencies, and more automated technology to increase productivity.
Mechanical sweeping: The number of large mechanical sweepers that clear main arterial routes and some residential roads will be reduced from 20 to 15. This will not lead to compulsory redundancies but there will be a reduction in the level of service offered.
Your City Your Birmingham: It is proposed to discontinue these enhanced services (services provided over and above the standard service) and can relate to environmental crime such as fly tipping, fly posting, littering and dog fouling etc.
Cllr James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City, said: “Cuts to the services that help make our city a cleaner and greener place are not something that sit easy with me.
“However, given that the controllable part of the council’s budget – which we can choose to prioritise – will be halved by 2017, we are simply left with little or no option but to consider some major changes to our waste management service. What we have done is come up with a package that tries to minimise the impact felt by citizens, embracing innovation and modern ways of working where possible – such as with the introduction of wheelie bins, to replace a system that is firmly stuck in the last century. But we want to be open and transparent about some of the less palatable changes helping up meet our financial challenge - that is why we are giving as much notice as possible of our intention to introduce fees and reduce the level of services where applicable.
At home there was a letter from Connecticut dated January 14:
Dear Simon. I loved reading of your Mother’s Service, and most of all, loved the pictures down the generations. Clearly a very beautiful woman in the pictures of her, your father (I assume) and you as young child. I can see the evolution persisting after all the years have done and favoured us with.
The Thomas Hardy poem you read is a great tribute – to one who notices things. But I wonder whether Hardy hasn’t got the generations wrong in his poem. Isn’t the real gift of the living that they have imparted to others – family, children, friends – the gift of noticing, of being curious which causes one to notice all the wonders cited by Hardy. Clearly your mother is one who did so.
The death of one’s mother, one’s father and brother or sister is so intimate. One feels a hole in one’s life – even if the time for departure had come. But the hole is not nothing. As we have come to understand in the cosmos, the black hole, the emptiness is not no-thing. It is all possibility. That, I have come to believe is the gift of death to the living – the gift of possibility. Clearly your mother imparted that to you and her grandchildren.
Best wishes and warm hugs to you and Lin. Tony
Email from Jan D:
Simon. Hope next Friday is still on. Be good to chew over some ideas with you. Every day seems to bring something new and often unpleasant. Bankers bonuses are back in the news. It simply beggars belief that what are in effect publically owned assets can allow such total misuse of resources. It is difficult to comprehend how a business loosing £5.5 billion can still be allowed to allocate £650 mill in bonuses. The real worrying factor is that democratic processes and players are powerless or unwilling to stop it, even in a nationalised business. This demonstrates how ‘castrated’ democracy is becoming. Democracy, through elected government, appears no longer able to shape events and they even struggle to react properly to them. Instead they are becoming the mouthpiece of vested interests, trying to persuade us that the interests of the 1% equals the national interest. Very different moralities and psychologies are at play here. If you already earn millions you need even more millions to stay motivated whereas if you are on benefits you need your income cut further in order to be motivated to find work – a bit simplistic I know but to quote George Monbiot ‘Our own ruling class...lives in a world of its own from which it can project power without understanding or even noticing the consequences’ and ‘frontbenchers can rock with laughter as it truncates the livelihoods of the poorest people in this country.’ In conclusion he says ‘those who govern us do not in their hearts belong here. They belong to a different culture, different world which knows as little of its own acts as it knows of those who suffer them’  Not certain I fully accept this ignorance of their own actions but this sums up nicely the new ‘feudal’ elite. There is something strange going on here whereby democracy is spawning forces which are totally incompatible with it or perhaps it is not that strange at all (remember the Weimar Republic!). Look forward to hearing your views. Best Jan
*** *** ***
Saturday morning, The waste paper basket is full of junk mail. We'd clear most of the letters needing a reply the night before. Lin went off to see her parents for the day. I rode into town to post replies and to enjoy a mug of tea and a baked potato soaked in butter in the Rag Market and to buy paperclips and envelopes but mainly to be with Oscar on the canal towpath and in and out of the city side roads and through the walking centre on what feels like the first of Spring.
Round 2.00pm I met up with Richard and Emma at Cafe Soya for a swift-served delectable all day lunch special. My son's using a friend's version of Rosetta to learn Mandarin in readiness for his and Emma's visit to Beijing in April. I described our Michel Thomas Greek course which Lin had picked up for peanuts at a table-top sale in Corfu.
"I'm suspicious of any thing that says this sort of thing is easy, but we really like the method, a sort of three way conversation with pauses between the tutor and two students who now and then make typical mistakes. We've been leaving it on as we do work round the house. We've got a good friend who tutors, but I'd be interested in the Greek version of Rosetta. Whatever works! How much is your flight costing?"
"Very good deal. We reckon it's because the air pollution has become so bad there."
Back in Birmingham
We are going to miss Carnival in Ano Korakiana this March and we've just missed the opening of Stamatis' project - the café that replaces his shop opened for the first time on Saturday

Εγκαίνια απόψε στο χωριό… Ο παλιός φούρνος του Γιάννη Σαββανή στην Πλάστιγγα, αφού πέρασε από τη φάση του μινι-μάρκετ, μετατράπηκε σήμερα σε ένα πολύ όμορφο χώρο καφε-ποτείου. Η διακόσμηση περίτεχνη, με αποκάλυψη των παλιών υλικών (ξύλου, τούβλου, πέτρας), με προσεγμένο φωτισμό και με φωτογραφικά ασπρόμαυρα ενθυμήματα από παλαιότερες δεκαετίες. Ο Σταμάτης, επικουρούμενος από τους τρεις γιούς του, τον Αλέξανδρο, το Γιάννη και τον Άγγελο υποδέχτηκαν απόψε τους πρώτους πελάτες και πέρασαν με επιτυχία τη δοκιμή της εξυπηρέτησής τους. Στη νέα επιχείρηση που υπόσχεται ζωντάνεμα της «Πιάτσας», ευχόμαστε «καλές δουλειές»… 
Opening tonight at the village ... The old bakery that belonged to John Savvani, after passing through the phase of being a local grocery, was today transformed into a really beautiful place for coffee-drinkers - with elaborate decoration, display of old wood, brick, and stone, with imaginative lighting and black and white photo memorabilia from past decades. Stamatis, assisted by his three sons - Alexander, John, and Angelo - tonight welcomed their first customers and successfully passed the test of entertaining them. The new enterprise promises to revive the 'Piazza' and provide new jobs...(note: and the grocer's shop at the other end of the village will do more trade and we can still get our bread, wine and confectionary and mail just across the street from Piazza)

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Simon Baddeley