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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Damp and cold

Plot 14, Victoria Jubilee Allotments after 3½ years

On Plot 14 Taj has done great work digging in manure, weeding, keeping an eye. There are inviting spaces in which I am planning - on advice - to plant garlic, shallot, broad beans, spinach and spring cabbage…
He's tidied the shed, which I share with Robin on plot 16, and which needs a proper window cover. This is still not the shed in which I had envisaged myself sitting cosily with a cup of tea surveying my growing vegetables. I shall get there in time.
Queuing on Heathfield Road, Handsworth

I've been driving the Handsworth Helping Hands van around our neighbourhood on a plethora of errands. Two days ago I was in London on other jobs - seeing a lawyer at Simons, Muirhead & Burton - to strengthen rights in my stepfather's work and discussing with Charles Webster the work I'm having done on Jack's films.
Somewhere just off Oxford Street

I stopped my bicycle here, by multiple images of Ginta Lapiņa, with reason, recalling Aristedes' attempts to sculpt his wife, a figure that recurs in his works.
He was 68. He'd just set his hand and mind to carving stone; remembering his wife when they were both young; her name I've yet to learn; when he was first trying to create form in marble, perhaps delighting in having recreated roundness and her full loose hair. How her head and face, compared to the shopwindow model, differs in bearing and demeanour. Some years later he carved an older wife...

….how sensual; how more alluring than La Senza. But then Metallinos wasn't trying to sell lingerie.
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Hyde Park cycle track

I enjoy being back on trains, cycling through Hyde Park in the dark seeing the lights of the fairground dressed for Christmas, the feel of our capital. Sweeping leaves off our driveway. Sharing the house with Oscar and cat Flea again...
…nestling amid paperwork on our kitchen table - one big in-tray; Lin on the phone for hours trying to contact faceless agencies unable or unwilling to have any communication with customers who pay them money for services they fail to provide...
Re: Electricity and gas supply to Flat 1, xxx. Account in the name of xx xxx opened xx/xx/13
I have been on the phone for 50 minutes in total waiting to speak to someone at Economy Energy. Having spent 20 minutes on a phone number found on your website yesterday, I checked again, only to find that the contact number had been changed overnight. I phoned the new number and have now been on the phone for 30 minutes, only to have the phonecall terminated at your end. No doubt you charge the maximum 0844 rate of over 4p per minute. I am disgusted with the service your company offers. How dare you call yourselves 'Economy Energy'!
I am a landlord. Having just returned from abroad, I found that the tenant in my flat had had the electricity meters changed, without my permission, to pre-payment meters which require a 'key'. The tenant left the flat some time ago without leaving a forwarding address.
In the flat I found a contract with your company signed by the ex-tenant, but there is no key for the meters. There is no credit on the meters and i cannot even access emergency credit without a 'key'.
I have no lighting or heating and no way of remedying this situation without speaking to someone at your company about how to get a 'key'.
I see that your company is not signed up for complaints to be dealt with by the Energy Ombudsman. I am not surprised by this. Judging by information found on the internet and my own experience, I imagine the Ombudsman would have a full time job dealing with complaints about your company alone!
I will be changing supplier asap. However, if you feel that I am being unfair in my assessment of your services and wish to explain reasons for your appalling treatment of customers, you are welcome to phone me on 0121 55x xxx.  Linda Baddeley
Seeing my children again and grandson and son-in-law…
"Oliver shouldn't be watching!" Guy shows a sample of Grand Theft Auto V to Lin. Oliver, Amy and Richard
I can't work out where to start re-assembling the variety of wood on the landing that was part of a cupboard around our bathroom sink after we'd at last had the bathroom tap leak mended.
June 2013: We have a leak from under the bath tub discolouring the ceiling in our boiler-room below. I've prevaricated about this. The leak is minimal. It can be safely ignored
"Meanwhile the wet and then the dry rot spreads" warns Lin
"There's an immovable sheet of slate on the side of the bath preventing access to the plumbing"
Three days ago, I attached the stone cutting disk to my angle grinder; removed the cupboard that stood beneath the washbasin up to the side of the bath, and began cutting out a panel in the slate that would be invisible when the cupboard was replaced. The slate dust was stifling, settling everywhere, blowing out the window I'd opened. A tap with a hammer and a panel appeared.
"Just great! I've found the leak. It's in the side of the old lead pipe just below its junction with six inches of copper pipe, old fashioned 1" gauge"
Lin peered in too.
The plumber we found took a look.
"I don't know what I can do"
He was worried about cutting the lead pipe in case it made the leak even worse. He applied liquid metal and refused any payment.
"I could have done that" said Lin
"Lin! It's old piping and it's copper to lead. That's a stinker. I don't blame him leaving it well alone"
Checking the next day the leak continued, but a bowl beneath the bend of the pipes contained the drips - hardly a centimetre deep.
"Who can we find who can connect lead piping to old gauge copper.piping? I guess we'll have to have the tap off, try to fit it with 15mm copper pipe and then cut the lead pipe below the leak and join the two pipes with a lead to copper compression joint. Phew."
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 The sitting room is strewn with things brought from Brin Croft, some of which must be sold, some distributed and some stored. The room must be cleared if we are to open presents here at Christmas.

In the streets the litter proliferates in its familiar way.
Michael wants something done about this
Dear Nick (Principal Operations Manager, Perry Barr Depot, Holford Drive) When Handsworth Helping Hands were leaving waste at Holford yesterday I was able to collect some gloves from one of your people in the office but there were no grey plastic bags available. We are down to our last few and would appreciate some more for HHH. Justin said a few days back he would bring some round. We’d be most grateful.
On a matter of flytipping in Church Vale - on the small green space next to the laundrette at number 15 - Is there any way something can be done about this continuing problem?….Simon
Post to Facebook: We - Handsworth Helping Hands volunteers Simon B and Denise F - were clearing rubbish from a back yard in Putney Road yesterday when we met Michael, a resident, living a hundred yards or so away, who asked us to help move some furniture for him (which we did). He pleaded with Denise and I to draw attention to the fly-tipping 'grot-spot' off Church Vale near his home (Handsworth B20 3SG). This a small green space we know well next to the Rainbow Laundrette (15 Church Vale) Map reference - 52.510293,-1.916249
The flytipping in the photo is nothing to do with the laundrette. The space has been a trash magnet for several years and, being private space, though we do not know who's the owner, does not get routinely cleared by Birmingham City Waste Services. Rubbish dumped there piles up and gets blown onto surrounding roads. It is passed every day by school children and other residents. There was just too much for us to clear as the HHH van was already carrying a full load bound for Holford Waste Depot, furthermore we fear that if this space is cleared the problem of fly-tipping on it will not cease.
Last week we had another meeting - the first since September - of Handsworth Helping Hands. welcoming a new member, Jimoh, and having a really good debate, while getting essential business done, about our use of 'Skip-it--Don't-tip it' days. Does it involve us doing work that ought to be done by local authority waste services? Instead of spending grant cash on skips could we not use the same money to hire in bulky waste street collections with a staffed crusher truck as an alternative to skips...

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Friday in November. I spent the afternoon in York with a friend - working over a long lunch at Pizza Express. Spritzer. Calzone Salami e Salsiccia, Mozzarella and tomato side salads. Sorbets and coffee. We were working up some thoughts on central-local relations in government. Dusk falls. My Brompton bicycle leans against a pillar. I caught a 5.45 train back to Birmingham. York is a special railway station. A beautiful place to arrive. Famous. I first saw it's iron bowed roof as a two year old when my mother brought me here in 1944, so that we were with my father who was training with his regiment, part of the Guards Armoured Division, on the Yorkshire moors.
On York Station - down platform for Birmingham
Simon. A somber look at what is  happening to the NHS at a frightening speed. Despite assurances from politicians that this would not happen it has been implemented at breakneck speed. Democratic oversight and accountability are being lost and in effect passed to corporate interests who will use competition laws and business confidentiality to squeeze out scrutiny (implications for LA scrutiny functions) and public provisions. This is an example of what is likely to happen to LA services and functions. Cameron said in a speech this week that rolling back the state (i.e. the public sector) and create the "small state” (i.e. a minimalist and residual public sector) is a permanent policy objective not determined by austerity or growth. It is here to stay. In other words it is ideologically driven. This will have major implications. Not only will direct service provisions disappear (with the possible exception of some residual services/new poor laws provisions) but commissioning by the public sector will also, as can be seen in the NHS, become meaningless and near impossible. Where it survives it will be forced into a 'ace to the bottom' approach. This is likely to be the future for Local Authorities. There is very little evidence that they have strategies for dealing with this scenario. Some authorities, especially in the major cities are bravely putting forward proposals for further devolution in areas like economic development but, although welcome, it is difficult to see how that will stop the direction of travel. The paradox here is that further devolution may be granted but the role of LAs may diminish at the same time and, as in the NHS, in effect taken over by corporate interests or new 'quangos' operating outside any proper democratic scrutiny and oversight. Where is Localism in this scenario? We also need to bear in mind that the big reductions in LA services and functions have yet to work their way through the system with more to come. The major staffing reductions are likely to come in the next 18 months and this will be a big  challenge for LAs.  LAs are so hamstrung by legislation that their scope for manoeuvre is very limited. A lot will depend on how willing local elected members are to stand up to their national parties and national policies. I remain sceptical. Parties are as centralised as government.
I think we need to build some context and Big Picture items in our critical incidents, otherwise we may end up discussing how to stack deckchairs on the Titanic. Another get together would be good. I’ll do some more thinking on the issues of criminality. Best Jan
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I signed this petition. Of course people should repay or service their debts but these debts are not the debts of the Greeks alone, though we who watch their suffering might find it easier to think it so.
Days to stop New Year nightmare!
86,375 signers. Let's reach 100,000

Why this is important
This New Year’s Day may turn to a complete nightmare for thousands of families in Greece. The law that stops the banks from repossessing people’s homes is expiring. If the government does not renew it, from the 1st of January 2014, thousands of indebt families as well as small business owners, will be literally left on the streets and the real estate market will crash because of the sudden, influx of properties for sale.

Together we can stop this non-sense, but we don’t have much time. In the next few days, the government will decide whether they will allow foreclosures. If enough of us take action now, we can prove to the government that the opening of foreclosures would pose a real threat to Greece's political stability.

So let’s send a crystal clear message: that the Greek people have made extreme sacrifices and that the government must now prove that they have the will to protect the vulnerable, indebted citizens who are in danger of becoming homeless and permanently marginalised. Sign the petition now and share it with everyone. Let’s create a sunami of outrage, too deafening to be ignored! When we reach 100.000 signatures, EKPOIZO will deliver them directly to the Greek government.

Μαζί μπορούμε να σταματήσουμε αυτό τον παραλογισμό, αλλά δεν έχουμε πολύ χρόνο. Μέσα στις επόμενες μέρες η κυβέρνηση θα αποφασίσει αν τελικά θα απελευθερωθούν οι πλειστηριασμοί. Αυτή η εξωφρενική απαίτηση της Τρόικας έχει ήδη αναζωπυρώσει αντιδράσεις ακόμη και μέσα στην ίδια την κυβέρνηση και ο Σαμαράς δέχεται πιέσεις απ’όλες τις πλευρές. Αν αρκετοί ψηφοφόροι αντιδράσουμε τώρα που ο Σαμαράς ακόμη σκέφτεται τι θέση θα πάρει στο θέμα, μπορούμε να του αποδείξουμε πως το πολιτικό κόστος αυτής της παράλογης και αντιλαϊκής κίνησης είναι πολύ βαρύ για να το σηκώσει αυτή τη δεδομένη στιγμή.

Ας στείλουμε λοιπόν στον Σαμαρά ένα ξεκάθαρο μήνυμα: πως ο Ελληνικός λαός έχει κάνει υπεράνθρωπους συμβιβασμούς και πως εκείνοςοφείλει πλέον να αποδείξει πως μπορεί να διαπραγματευτεί με την Τρόικα για να προστατεύσει τους ευπαθείς και υπερχρεωμένους πολίτες που κινδυνεύουν να μείνουν στους δρόμους και να οδηγηθούν οριστικά στο περιθώριο της ζωής.

Το ξεπάγωμα των πλειστηριασμών δεν είναι η λύση. Αν η κυβέρνηση και οι τράπεζες θέλουν, όπως ισχυρίζονται, να κυνηγήσουν τους κακοπληρωτές και τα ‘μεγάλα ψάρια’, μπορούν να το κάνουν ανά πάσα στιγμή χωρίς να απελευθερώσουν τους πλειστηριασμούς.

Υπόγραψε τώρα το ψήφισμα και διάδωσε το στους πάντες. Ας χαράξουμε τα όρια της ανοχής μας ακριβώς εδώ κι ας δημιουργήσουμε ένα τσουνάμι διαμαρτυρίας από κάθε γωνιά της Ελλάδας, τόσο εκκωφαντικό ώστε να είναι αδύνατον να αγνοηθεί! Όταν ξεπεράσουμε τις 120.000 υπογραφές η ΕΚΠΟΙΖΩ θα τις παραδώσει απευθείας στην κυβέρνηση.
Linda Baddeley...I don't want to see my friends and neighbours in Corfu suffering more than they are already. What good would their homes be to the banks anyway? The Greek property market is all but dead - I know of houses that have been on the market for more than seven years. If this goes ahead, will the banks be paying all the property tax due on the repossessed properties?  People are already struggling to survive, in the great part because of the corruption of politicians and government agents. Do they have to suffer even more? Only if the government doesn't act quickly. I urge the Greek government to seriously consider the consequences if the law that protects people's homes from repossession is not renewed.
…and our friend in Ag Ioannis wrote:

Paul McGovern We all know, or should know, that this is a financial war. A real war. And it is not about money. Money had value. This is about numbers in a computer. The trillions owed by America, for example, is not even real. It is a self-created mythical debt based upon invisible transfers betweeen Federal Reseve and US Goverment. At the end of the day any country is about the land and the people on it, not about South Sea bubbles. We need banks for accessible transport of currency but for starters they should be fee-based, not interest based.
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This evening I was at a Social Media Surgery, events I've attended on and off for ages. This gathering was up at the top of the Mailbox in the foyer of the BBC, who'll host these events for the future.
I was exploring ways to use Facebook in supporting Handsworth Helping Hands, getting helpful advice from people more media literate than I. As well as our Facebook pages we need a website but I don't understand websites. Someone suggested I use a blog that looks like a website - something they demonstrated convincingly with Wordpress. 

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Simon Baddeley