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Friday, 28 October 2016

Departure - Arrival

Last Monday afternoon, a bright autumn day, Linda and I were among many - it seemed like the whole village - attending the funeral service for Andreas Metallinos, son of the laic sculptor Aristeidis Metallinos, at St Athanasius Church in Ano Korakiana, Corfu. Of course I took no photo but the church for Christmas carols gives an idea of the beauty of the setting...

The close family waited as we came out of the church, including, Anna - wife, Aristia, and Angeliki - daughters, Maria - sister to Andreas and her son Anastasios - nephew. Andreas was taken in burial procession to the church of Paraskevi accompanied by the solemn and beautiful music of the Spyros Samaras Philharmonic of Korakiana. He will lie by the graves of his father, Aristeidis, and mother, Angeliki.
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I half expected Stamati with his joinery on the Ano-Kato road to turn his nose up at so small an order. I cycled down from the village with the old window frame.
He looked at it. Understood without words what I wanted
“Come back tomorrow to collect”
Lin and I walked up the next day. There was our window amid other projects, new transoms cut; inserted as on the original. We were very pleased. Stamati rested the old frame on a bench, noting how an old scarf was warping the frame; an obstacle to glazing. In seconds he’d clamped it against a hardwood splint, brushing glue into the opened seam.
Stamati in his workshop below the village

“This window may be 200 years old. Bring the clamps back tomorrow”
We carried the window home.
Taking the clamped window home
Next morning I cycled with it to Pyrgi, where in no time a bus arrived and carried us with bike and frame to a glazier on the outskirts of town.
“You don’t want to try bringing it back on the bus” said Lin “On Friday when we have a car we’ll collect it on the way home”
I went home via Sokraki, over an hour on the Green Bus, shedding school children on the way up to Spartillas, in Sgourades and Zygos, where the bus misses building by centimetres. I treated myself to a garlicky dried sausage and a chunk of fresh bread on the journey. As he took my bike from the hold, the bus-driver scolded me for my crumbs on his floor. He swept them up with a brush and dustpan. Lesson. His bus. I think I might have done this inconsiderately before. Descending from Sokraki I got a puncture. I inserted another inner tube, checking the inside of the tyre for thorns or glass. It went flat again in hardly 50 metres. Knowing it was shot, I drifted the rest of the way on the flat and once home fitted a new tyre and tube.
So we have nearly finished the cupboard and shelves - our latest bricolage; from discarded wood to something useful again...
Recovered from beside wheelie bins

Cupboard, shelves, drawer on Lin's side of the bed
There's some fine tuning when we come back to Greece, hinges and other edges. Fillings and getting the drawer to go in and out smoothly.
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October morning ' ease my regret' 

To ease my regret at returning to England soon I think of things I enjoy - treating myself to a pinch of lemon and red pepper with each of half a dozen oysters at Pearces... the Bull Ring food market, tasting the fresh sea water first;

or...having a baked potato salted with lots of butter from the stall at the entrance to the Rag Market; cycling along the canal towpath in and out of town; being on our allotment next to Handsworth Park tended by Winnie, perhaps getting some honey from the bees this year; seeing the grandchildren; going to Rock Cottage where there’s a lot of wood to cut and split for the stoves and walking in the forest of Dean in autumn; a pint with Dave and Pete in the Old Joint Stock; ...
The Old Joint Stock London by train and cycling there, to have supper with Ziggi and keep up with the digitisation and editing of my stepfather’s ‘Out of Town’ 16mm films and sound tapes; sleeping in our big Brittany bed with the softer mattress than ours here;

...having a flu jab at the GP’s; giving blood at the Donor Centre in New Street; taking part in the latest 1000 Elders study of protein intake - an influence on muscle mass and function, which lessen and weaken with age. Despite popular attention to ‘dieting’, science still knows relatively little about people’s protein intake. So mine – based on keeping a three day diary of what I eat - will be compared with that of younger groups. A second invite asks me to be the subject of a study into the effects of Nicotinamide Riboside, a vitamin supplement supposed to boost the mitochondrial functioning of old muscles - two tests over three weeks, with one using the vitamin and the other a placebo; double-blind where, until the testing is over, neither researcher nor subject knows whether a placebo or the NR is being used. As I age I’m supposed to become frailer, more susceptible to disease because the ‘power houses’ of my cells – mitochondria – that give energy to my body become weaker because molecule called Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) drops with age. The hypothesis – but perhaps hype - is that taking the NR vitamin supplement makes up for this. I wonder.
“Hm! I’d like some of that” said Lin
“Yes but suppose it works on me and I go in for the Tour de France couldn’t I be in trouble like Bradley Wiggins?”
“No he was taking a TUE. A drug. This NR is a vitamin supplement”
“It gets a lot of publicity on the internet. It’s what I like about the 1000 Elders project. You get to see if things do or don’t work by going through procedures in controlled conditions. There are so many ways we fool ourselves without intention.”
We see others getting old and know that barring accident the running down to being bed-ridden may await us, worse - senility, dementia and decrepitude – the seventh age. I can either pretend to ignore my fate or have at least some understanding of the process.
A second invite comes from the 1000 Elders project; to keep a diary over three days to study my protein intake - its influence on muscle mass and function, which lessen and weaken as I get old. Despite popular attention to ‘dieting’, science appears to know relatively little about people’s actual protein intake. Mine will be compared with that of younger groups.
A third invite come via my blood donating where I’ve just completed the ‘Intervals Study’ testing – in a sample of 50,000 people - the safety of giving blood more frequently. Will I take part in the CARRIAGE study? This is run by researchers at Cambridge to investigate why some people carry the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) in their nose while other people never do. S. aureus is a common bacterium carried by one in three people, in their nose or elsewhere on the skin. For most people carrying S. aureus is harmless, but it causes life-threatening infections in hospitals in patients with serious underlying medical conditions and weakened immune systems. Understanding why some people are carriers while others are not will help design new treatments to prevent such infections. I’m asked to take three nasal swabs – a week apart - and complete a short online questionnaire at the start and end of the study. My pack of swabs, labels and envelopes arrived at home just now.
I have also been involved in the PROTECT study led by Kings College, London. This goes on for a decade, gathering data from 20,000 volunteers on the ageing brain and how and why some people get dementia. I will provide a DNA sample, and information about my habits – drinking for instance - also, my exercising and blood pressure (measured by my GP) as these could affect my risk of developing dementia. I also do online assessments to measure such abilities as memory and reasoning. These assessments are repeated annually so that the study can check how I change over 10 years. And I'm one of 500,000 people registered with the UK Biobank.
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 Amy, who’s looking after Oscar dog while we’re in Greece, says she thinks he’s getting senile – born 14th June 2002, he’s coming up over the average age for Jack Russells; spends time sitting in the middle of the room staring.
There’s the continuing campaigning in Sandwell to get housing back around Black Patch Park. Phil Crumpton’s been keeping me briefed, including his and Andrew Simon’s meeting with Cllr Steve Eling, Leader of the Council...a brief from Phil who I'll see next Friday...
PDF Friends of Black Patch Park meeting with Steve Eling and Richard Marshall on Tuesday October 4th. at Oldbury 
Andrew and I were delighted to be joined by ‘Matt,’ (surname not recalled as I type this/Borough Chief of Park maintenance and services - site manager). He was invited to take part as the support for making the hands-on case for the work being undertaken in Black Patch Park.
Our meeting with Steve was much longer than the one we had with Darren Cooper. In contrast to that starter meeting, in April, no-one was sitting in the take minutes. This was an enormous relief as it demonstrated that Steve wants it clear, he had got people submitting evidence and materials to help him carry on from where Darren started. It was the case that he had to acknowledge, too, he ‘..has been handed many tasks’. Another plus point. Richard did have many points to make about how he sees the current state of the park. Councillor Marshall (my councillor) wants it made clear to our group, how much he understands about the untness of the park - even though he confesses to not being a regular visitor. Give Richard the benet of our faith in him as he is clearly tired of seeing things just delegated and deferred over a number of years. We have made that case. We clearly have a coherent councillor, working in the interests of one of many, many Sandwell Parks and, in our case, a distinctive heritage site to boot. Richard also had a good grasp of one of the most inescapable circumstances that the ‘Patch’ still suffers from and as Steve mentioned on many, many occasions; “..Black Patch is isolated as a neighbourhood”. Few councillors have ever taken the time to put detail on this, in making the case for this inalienably-protected green space. All our work and lobbying since 2002 has seen to that remaining the same. But it was most interesting in how much SMBC’s policy message has moved on from the old, ‘institutionalised pre-2016 prognosis.’ Instead, now making the community of place ready for a Place of Community.
Matt made the effort to commit his SMBC department to pledge: ‘No More Disruption’ to the park’s badly needed upgrade to ‘Fit for Purpose’ status. Matt went on to state how this would be carried on, with the help of a break from so many illegal actions following on from the travellers’ regular abuses of the Park. He stressed how the newer obstacles to travellers - like the newer anti-lift or tamper-proof concrete bollards have made the difference to the opportunism that we have become so fed up with accommodating. Richard and Matt are to visit in the coming days to do a further check on the means by which they can demonstrate further action to check the cameras’ alignments plus inspect the old school gates site. This is because I showed them the photographic evidence of the newer fly-tipping hotspot, on the bend in Foundry Lane and where Richard is locating the heavy duty sunken bollards to block off the recess. Another outcome for the Friends’ campaigning..!
Councillor Eling did execute his right to say, on several occasions, “..Black Patch issues are not all about the Park”. He is right and I agree. He went on to use that word “isolated,” and he was still right; as much as the boundaries of three former counties met at the bridge over the brook(s); as much as the area has become a place where industrial expansion choked off access to the small residential area - it does not mean that it will stay that way. He did emphasise: “..we need to follow-up this meeting when we have your ‘Community Housing Project Proposal and Re-Zoning Plan’ as he is looking closer at the walkway along the brook-side - to the end of the allotment but he acknowledged the ‘whole allotment was as prime for redeveloping for housing as it is for closure’ ...! Another breakthrough..... See you all on November 1st. W
I must also draft the final report of Handsworth Helping Hands’ on our ‘Three Avenues Project’. Our next committee is at the start of November. We've more work yet with residents in Brackley, Putney and Crompton Avenues, focusing on their small green spaces and the continued challenge of services for ‘unadopted’ streets.
Then there’s Christmas in the city

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Simon Baddeley