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Monday, 24 June 2013


I cycled into town, Oscar running with me beside the canal, to get leaflets copied, buy some odds and ends including batteries for my cycle lights, marker pens, and a reliable steak bake from Greggs, and screws to mend the bottom hinge of our old garage door. In what was once the city of a 1000 trades I couldn't find a supplier; so instead of the 6" galvanised screws I wanted, I'll make do with half a dozen similar length coach bolts which at £5.50 cost far too much. Town was busy despite the chill with loads of people round the Birmingham Bull.

With my circulars printed at a shop on Colmore Row, I cycled back to Handsworth, headed down the Lozells Road and was called by name.
"Simon! Welcome back"
It was Aftab Rahman, with some people he was walking down the Villa Road, visitors to Handsworth
"I've been back a while, at least three days since Scotland"
We spoke of the success of the Heritage Trail and his plans for a Handsworth time capsule - local people to be trained as journalists to seek out older residents with memories of the area from their youth.
"You're ahead of your time, Aftab" I said, mindful of the view that few outsiders would want to visit Handsworth; that our MP, Khalid Mahmood, had called the trail a waste of money.
“We’re talking about the middle of Birmingham, I don’t think it is picturesque. We haven’t got the sort of sites they have in York, for example, but we’re not in that league. We’ve got to understand where we are. We’ve got better things to spend that money on than walking a group of Japanese tourists around.”
I headed a little north and...

...after fish and chips with curry sauce eaten in the street, I started the afternoon, trudging up and down Stamford Road, delivering leaflets. I detest British letter boxes - impossible to open, finger trapping, half-blocked with useless insulation, too often placed at the bottom of the door. Denise Forsyth came by, on her way to visiting a friend, and helped me for a while.
"Lin's gone to Sheffield hasn't she?"
"Taken her dad for a check-up"

      …working for the community

Handsworth Helping Hands are committed to cleaning up our area.
On Thursday June 27th a skip provided by HHH will be on the corner of Stamford Road and Putney Road from 8.30 a.m.
Residents are invited to use it to get rid of bulky rubbish & unwanted items.
Please do not put in household waste, green waste & recyclables usually collected by Birmingham City Council, building rubble or tyres.
HHH members will be there to help and advise.

"Putting these leaflets round, Simon, we're going to need more than one skip" she said. 
"Can we get a discount on a second one?"
"I'll give him a call. If we just have just one it'll overflow and we'll have a bigger mess than when we started. Oh and when you get home ask Nick Reid to send a scavenger truck round Friday morning to pick up anything left"
We saw several people in the street and told them there'd be a free skip in the street, may be two, on Thursday. The word's around and I can see us wishing we'd bought three.
"Let's just see what happens. It's a pilot after all. We can afford it"
"Lin's not going to like it. Another £120!"
"OK. I'll get a second skip and you deal with Lin and phone Nick Reid at the depot"
Dear Nick. Re: Handsworth Helping Hands skips in Stamford Road - scavenger truck follow-up...Can you arrange a scavenger vehicle to roam and pick up anything left over in Stamford Road (and Putney Road where it crosses Stamford) on the Friday morning 28 June after our skips have been removed? Best wishes, Simon 
Simon. I am concerned that you may be creating a bit of a monster here! Are you going to have somebody on site to supervise and turn people away once the skip is full?  I met Denise the other day and she did say you were going to do this and I have said that I will send the ward team across to clean up any spillage at the end of the day. Nic Reid, Principal Operations Manager, Fleet and Waste Management, Perry Barr Depot, Holford Drive B42 2TU.. 0121 303 1975 Mob: 07920 750 213
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Dear Nick. This was always a pilot and Denise and I have anticipated the thing that worries you. We’ve now invested in a second skip to go at the top of the road and of course we’ll be there - several of us - with the HHH van ready to speak to people and help pick up. But many thanks for your support and help and understanding. Best Simon, Handsworth Helping Hands
It's been an out-tray day. Checking with the removal company in Inverness, instructing surveyors to prepare a Home Report on Brin Croft; trying to get Highland Council to at least acknowledge my request to review their refusal to grant executors' exemption on Brin Croft ("We get 3000 emails a day we can't..." "OK OK, but has my letter arrived?" "It was passed for actioning on the 17th" "Thanks"). I have to complete an on-line questionnaire as part of it - but it only downloads on Internet Explorer which doesn't run on a Mac - as any ful kno. I've mowed the lawns here...

...and collected green waste and tidied and filed and prepared handouts and presentations for a seminar I'm running with Catherine in East Anglia - all done on line. It's mid-summer; the weather chilly even in the middle of the day. I'm putting off working on the allotment with a plethora of smaller jobs. The plumber, two doors down, has promised to fix the long standing slow leak below the bathroom tap, confident he can join old lead to new copper. X rang, anxious. Wanted to talk. His mother is over a 100 and he doesn't get on with the council carers. I could give little solace. The estate agent, Phiddy Robertson, emailed Brin Croft's particulars...

Inverness about 8 miles.  Airport about 15.5 miles.


Lot 1
An attractive single storey house on an elevated site with beautiful views over Strathnairn.

• The accommodation comprises:  Conservatory Porch.  Entrance Hall.  Open plan Sitting Room and Dining Room with wood burning stove.  2 en suite Bedrooms.  2 further bedrooms.  Kitchen.  Utility Room.  Generous Storage.

Timber chalet, car port and game larder.

Delightful wooded grounds overlooking the River Farnock.

A peaceful and secluded setting on the edge of the village.

Easy access to the A9 and Inverness.

About 0.27 hectares (about 0.669 acres) in all.

Lot 2
Littlemills Lochan

• Attractive lochan with boat shed located in Inverarnie Forest approximately one mile from Brin Croft.

Inverness Residential Department
Reay House
17 Old Edinburgh Road

Tel: 01463 224343
Fax:   01463 243234

Littlemills Lochan

*** *** ***
I emailed Minoti in Delhi
Dear Minoti. Linda and I have just come back from a melancholy week at Brin Croft getting the house ready for sale. Linda has been a great help as we go through the tedious details of disposing of things no-one in the family wants. We go up again in mid-July, also with Amy and Guy and our grandson Oliver, to do a final clearance and probably to spread mum’s ashes on the Findhorn. How are you and how’s your work? xxx Simon
Dear Simon. I was so stunned by what you wrote yesterday. But it was so good of you to remember me at a time like this. I also got the Memorial [you sent me] down from next to my own parents' photograph where I keep her and is the object of my worship when I do pray to all my ancestors.
I cannot imagine your melancholic visit but I can feel your pain as you have lost someone like Theodora who was the throbbing heart of Brin Croft. So much sadness.
I am in India since March as you may perhaps not remember in the midst of all that you have undergone since last year. I just keep praying for Peter to stay safe on his dialysis machine since he has been doing that at home for the last five months now! I also pray he stays that way till I am able to get back to Langford and be there to relieve him from all the house work at least which  he has to do despite his condition. Human beings need such support but he has to do it alone and I have never broken any rules of the UK. So here I remain for at least another 3 months before I go back.
I have just come back a week ago from Japan where I presented a paper at the International Association of the Study of Commons Conference at Kitifuji [northern Fuji Yama]  My panel was on Law and the Commons and I presented on Corruption in bureaucracy-political nexus  and land records in India and how the Law does not protect the commoners as a result of this. I can send my paper if you have the patience to read it.  Also two of my papers have got published just this month one as a chapter in a book which the Springer publishers brought out and the other in a journal called Global Environment.  When will you get back to England in case you go back to Greece or will you stay put till October or so when I might be able to get back. I might be trying to get to Germany too in case my daughter takes up a fellowship in Heidelberg.
Thank you again for writing to me - I am grateful. Love and all the best, Minoti   
Minoti and Mum at Brin Croft
*** ***
So there have been changes - prompted by the ERT closure and reopening  - in the government of Greece but the real news is that latest government reshuffle in Athens has not made news. Said Olli Rehn, EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner "I love Greece but I'm very much looking forward to a eurogroup press conference where Greece is not going to be discussed, and a summer where we don't have any Greek crisis.
In the village they've been leaping through fire:

Λάμπατα στην Κορακιάνα
Ανήμερα τ’ Αη Γιαννιού χθες, του «Λαμπατάρη» και στις γειτονιές του χωριού ζωντάνεψε για μια ακόμη φορά το έθιμο από τις «λαμπατίνες». Στο τρίστρατο του Κουκουκή (Μουργάδες) τα μαγιοστέφανα ρίχτηκαν στην πυρά, με την προσθήκη φρέσκιας ρίγανης και μικροί-μεγάλοι πήδαγαν πάνω από τις τρεις φωτιές…
Στον δε Άη-Γιώργη, το έθιμο έλαβε χώρα στο προαύλιο της εκκλησίας, με διοργανωτή το Συμβούλιο της Ενορίας και με την παρουσία κόσμου από όλο το χωριό. Η δε συμμετοχή του χορευτικού της Φιλαρμονικής έδωσε τόνο στο χορό που ακολούθησε, υπό τις μουσικές επιλογές του νεαρού Αη-γιωργίτη «D.J.» και τις ευωδίες της ψησταριάς που λειτουργούσε κάτω ακριβώς από το καμπαναριό…
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Ψηλά, στον καλοκαιριάτικο ουρανό, η Μεγάλη Πανσέληνος αντιφέγγιζε από το Τριοκάτσουλο μέχρι του Κόρεντι, παρά το παροδικό πέρασμα από σκουρόχρωμα σύννεφα...
Υ.Γ. Από φίλους της ιστοσελίδας μας επισημάνθηκε ότι ο ένας εκ των κυρίων της ψησταριάς κατανάλωνε ασταμάτητα σουβλάκια!! Ποιος εκ των δύο άραγε??
I struggled translating this but when I asked him, Aleko D stepped in: 'Hello Simon and Linda. It was indeed a pleasure receiving your note. I thought that you would be here, this time of the year! I am now well again after my problem with the leg and I was looking forward to seeing you both over here or somewhere else! When you come in September please get in touch so that we can meet! Here is your translation':
On the day of 'St John of the Fire' the village once again revived the old tradition of lighting and jumping through the three fires. At the 'Koukoukis' cross-roads (Mourgades) the Mayday wreaths were thrown on the fire supplemented by fresh oregano.Everybody, children and grown-ups were jumping through the three fires. At the church of St.John this took place at the church forecourt and it was organised by the President of the Parish. The entire village attended this ceremony. The local Philharmonic gave the tone for the dance that followed under the direction of the young man from St.George who acted as the 'DJ'. This took place under the church belfry where the grill was set-up. High up in the sky on this summer night the very large Full Moon was shining from the 'Trikatsoulo' up to 'Korendi' even though at times dark clouds intervened!  P.S. It was noted by friends of our website that one of the two men grilling the 'souvlakia' was eating them non-stop!! We are wondering which one of the two it was??

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Simon Baddeley