Monday, 29 June 2015

Hanging out to dry ~ 'the nightmare of Greek history'

'...Under their thundering rage at Syriza, those who will vote yes are also afraid, not just of losing their privileges as some on the left would have it, not just of the deeper collapse that will surely follow default, but of being torn from Europe and the stability it’s meant, of being thrown back into the nightmare of Greek history.'
'As Greece fractures, old wounds are reopening' Maria Margaronis is the finest of commentators on her country - eloquent, informed, wise on how history waits in the wings.
Ano Korakiana


Ano Korakiana

'Immoral chapter' Aristeidis Metallinos of Ano Korakiana, 1985 (cat.220 marble relief 75 x 59)
'God's Law - the poor make children so the rich...' Aristeidis Metallinos of Ano Korakiana, 1986 (cat.237 marble relief 40 x 59)
These are pictures of two of at least 260 works made during the 1970s and 80s - by the sculptor Aristeidis Metallinos of the village of Ano Korakiana. With the support of the Metallinos family Linda and I with the sculptor's grand-daughter, Angeliki, are working on listing all the artist's works. Accompanied by titles and explanations these will be displayed on a website to be constructed over the next few months. These marble reliefs - a tiny sample - capture the laic sculpture's pungent ribald take on injustice. This pungency is only part of his work. See his record of the disappearing pastoral economy of his village - Ano Korakiana in relief.
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How I would vote in the Greek referendum
Joseph Stiglitz ~ The Guardian, Monday 29 June 2015
...And, sure enough, what we are seeing now, 16 years after the eurozone institutionalised those relationships, is the antithesis of democracy: many European leaders want to see the end of prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist government. After all, it is extremely inconvenient to have in Greece a government that is so opposed to the types of policies that have done so much to increase inequality in so many advanced countries, and that is so committed to curbing the unbridled power of wealth. They seem to believe that they can eventually bring down the Greek government by bullying it into accepting an agreement that contravenes its mandate.
...By contrast, a no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Greek Crisis

A few days ago Oliver and Hannah were staying with their other grandmother, Christine. She introduced them to kite flying...
Oliver and Hannah (Photo: Amy Hollier)
...while yesterday Lin and I were entertaining them.
Hannah sits in the high chair that was my mother's, mine, and our childrens'

This morning I walked with Oscar and Oliver to the allotment and worked through the morning with Winnie, watering and weeding...
Oscar and Oliver ~ the flag was described recently as 'an ode' to a famous photograph taken 45 years ago

...cropping more broad beans and a first batch of peas, shelling them at home...

A sage item from the minutes of a recent VJA committee:
Flags. – Simon has a union jack flag on his allotment and it was questioned whether this was appropriate as it has negative connotations and could give the wrong impression of the allotment. The flag in question is an ode to a photograph taken close to the allotments that has cultural significance and is therefore an artistic and cultural expression.
Boy with flag, Handsworth Park by Vanley Burke 1970 - 1979 (c.)
Yesterday Amy brought Liz to the plot. She'd not seen it for two years.
"Wow!" she said "You've done good"
Liz can't walk anywhere for more than five minutes...complications with pregnancy means taking care moving about. Baby due in two months.

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Yannis Varoufakis, Greek Finance Minister, wrote recently, about a book he had just written 'talking to my daughter about the economy'...
Yanis Varoufakis, Finance Minister of Greece "Democracy did not have a good day in yesterday’s Eurogroup meeting"

...a book about 'how economic power has emerged from the shadows of political and military might before gradually taking over human societies. The narrative combines history, literature, science fiction films and down-to-earth economic analysis to impress upon teenagers, and various beginners, that economics is an epic drama. Rather than a technical science, it is a battleground on which armies of ideas clash mercilessly and where concepts with a capacity to move mountains emerge; and all that in a war for our own allegiances which are being fought over by powerful interests usually at odds with ours...That, looked at through a piercing eye, behind every economic notion, every theory, there lurks a fascinating debate about human anxieties that only poets, dramatists and musicians have managed to address with any degree of efficiency.'

As it happened – Yanis Varoufakis’ intervention during the 27th June 2015 Eurogroup Meeting
posted on 28th June 2015 The Eurogroup Meeting of 27th June 2015 will not go down as a proud moment in Europe’s history. Ministers turned down the Greek government’s request that the Greek people should be granted a single week during which to deliver a Yes or No answer to the institutions’ proposals – proposals crucial for Greece’s future in the Eurozone...

Greek Lawmakers Approve Decision to Hold Referendum
by Stelios Bouras, Wall Street Journal June 27, 2015 Greek lawmakers gave the green light early Sunday to a proposal by the coalition government to hold a referendum on whether austerity measures demanded by lenders in exchange for further aid should be accepted by the crisis-hit nation...

Greece Will Close Banks to Stem Flood of Withdrawals
by Landon Thomas Jr. and Niki Kitsantonis The New York Times 28 June 2015 ATHENS — Greece will keep its banks closed on Monday and place restrictions on the withdrawal and transfer of money, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a televised address on Sunday night, as Athens tries to avert a financial collapse....

Travel to Greece: Advice for those travelling to Greece
by Simon Calder, The Independent posted Tuesday 16 June, 2015 Many concerned prospective holidaymakers have got in touch this week as Greece’s financial crisis deepens. A worrying time for the Greeks – but should holidaymakers worry?...
by Viktoria Dendrinou & Gabriele Steinhauser Wall Street Journal June 27, 2015  The eurozone rejected a Greek request for a one-month extension to its bailout Saturday, plunging the country into a period of high uncertainty and raising concerns about wider financial fallout when markets open on Monday....
by Alex Barker Financial Times June 27, 2015 Greek banks are on the edge of failure. Deposit flight is accelerating and Greece’s funding options are running out. Every euro withdrawn from cash machines is backed by emergency funding from the European Central Bank. Without an extension to Greece’s bailout, these ECB emergency loans are in doubt. Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, has 
Reuters June 27, 2015 Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a referendum on austerity demands from foreign creditors on Saturday, rejecting an "ultimatum" from lenders and putting a deal that could determine Greece's future in Europe to a risky popular vote...
Associated Press June 27, 2015 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has emerged undamaged from the global financial crisis, European bailouts, an astonishing U-turn on nuclear power and the crisis over Ukraine. Now, with the future of efforts to resolve Greece's fiscal woes up in the air, the long-serving leader looks well-placed to emerge strong even if they fail.
by Hugo Dixon Reuters June 27, 2015 Alexis Tsipras has taken a massive gamble on Greece’s future. By calling a referendum on whether to accept the creditors’ latest offer of cash in return for unpopular reforms, the Greek prime minister is offering the people a choice between the bad and the extremely bad. Meanwhile, the world may be about to face the biggest default in history... 
by Peter Spiegel Financial Times June 26, 2015 Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, has announced a national referendum on whether his country should agree to creditors’ demands that would release desperately-needed bailout aid to avoid national bankruptcy. In a televised address to the nation after a late-night meeting of his cabinet, Mr Tsipras announced that the plebiscite would be.... 

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'Ευρωπαϊκή Οικονομική Κοινότητα ~ The European Union' 1980 by Aristeidis Metallinos
In the week before we last left Ano Korakiana, Linda, I and Angeliki Metallinos, completed a list of nearly all her grandfather's sculptures and marble reliefs. After three and half hours we had a re-numbered list based on the year of the carving, with dimensions, brief description, and whether in local stone or in marble from Kozani...
Aristeidis Metallinos (1908-1987) catalogue draft us the raw material for a catalogue which, talking to several gallery curators recently, I believe should be created as a website. I'm not dismissing a hard copy. I'm recognising that having information about Aristeidis Metallinos on the web is a better goal. From such a site, easy to edit, different catalogues with varying emphases can be made into temporary hard texts. The web option, avoiding colour or even half-tone printing is also a deal less costly.  I am still exploring who should write about the laic sculptor. On 21st June, I was excited to receive a letter from the scholar - Dr. Eurydice Antzoulatou-Retsila, since 2009 professor at the School of Cultural Studies at the University of Peloponnese in Kalamata - who had first written about Metallinos in 1985, when he was still alive:
Dear Simon.
At last I can communicate with you, because I had terrible problems with my computer all this period, being afraid that I had lost all my archives, but finally all has been arranged well.
So, let me first thank you deeply for your interest in the work of Metallinos. I was feeling the same when in 1982 I had discovered him and I had faced all negative attitudes from all parts of communities in Corfu. But I insisted and I wrote my article then . My husband , now, says that nothing goes in vain and he is very glad with your initiative , because he, himself ( as artist, he is film director) had believed in this work.
Perhaps my interest those days was founded in my work as curator at the National Museum of Greek Folk Art (in Athens) and my interest in what is humble and simple. After all, this had been my first speciality (history archaeology, art focused on Greek folk art, my PhD dissertation was on the wedding crowns of modern Greece, those created in gold and silver and kept in local churches or in museums).
I will be very glad indeed to contribute in the volume you are preparing and actually I am planning to visit Corfu again in September to meet with my old friends there (I was professor of museum studies and cultural management at the Ionian University there from 1994 to 2009), to start a new research I am planning and of course I will enjoy seeing again the works of Metallinos.
This last period has been very hectic for me, because I am retiring  end of August and lots of things in the administration must be arranged (I am dean since 2011…).
I am planning also my new career  (my third one!!)  in music this time (piano and singing as soprano) and I am really very excited. My first career was as curator at the museum (and also creating lots of museums all over Greece), my second as university professor and now as musician. Not bad for a variety in life !!!
So, dear Simon, thank you again for these wonderful ideas you have, I am sharing your interest and I will be glad to contribute. But the greatest pleasure for me is your interest in Greek things, expressed in this very sensitive way, especially this period, where this country and this society is really in a very bad situation.
Be well, take good care, greetings to Linda and let us try to meet soon
Plaque on the front of the Aristeidis Metallinos Museum in Ano Korakiana - the year the builder became the sculptor
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The amount of greenery to be salvaged from crops, from neighbouring fallow allotments just scythed - in weeds, pods, tops and hay...all for long term composting...
Windrows raked from the scythings of fallow allotments either side of plot 14

...while the bays by the fence may have produced some humus by this time next year...with one bay providing almost usable soil though full of annual weed seeds.
This bay includes much of the couch grass weeded out over the last year
I've realised my friend Ziggi's point that it's not good just growing stuff, however successfully. You must grow it to eat and ensure that you bring it for cooking by agreement with the cook. Don't just turn up like the 'hunter-gatherer' with a bag of veg and expect Lin to be grateful. Check what's needed. Scarf what's to be cropped into her plans for meals. Allow also for the extra time involved in preparation compared to veg off the supermarket shelf.
Lin didn't ask for these but I needed to do some thinning of the parsnip bed

Once cropped every one of these sweet little parsnips needs to be topped, tailed and scrubbed.

That took me half an hour at the sink, slightly less time than it took me yesterday to shell fresh peas for two, or today, for Lin to shell a saucepan full of broad beans. The same goes for the many small new potatoes that were 'ordered' for a Sunday family supper..
From Amy who brought the cakes to finish the meal: Thanks mummy for cooking dinner for all of us was very yummy and much needed. Liz says thank you too smile emoticon
Et in Arcadia ego 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

My plot

For Father's Day beloved Amy gave me a glossy kitchen-garden porn mag

Early Tuesday morning - about 3.00am - I went downstairs to join Lin who was up late in the kitchen after collecting Richard and Emma from East Midlands off a midnight flight from Turkey.
"I've been having a nightmare. Make me a cup of tea...Please"
"Go on then"
"I was taking an exam.... Thanks...I was taking an exam...on gardening. I thought I was going to do quite well. But I couldn't answer any of the questions. Somehow I lost my paper. Lost everything I needed to at least write something. Time seemed to speed up. My second pen didn't work. I couldn't find the exam room. I had to ask the invigilator, a young American soldier, who made me stand to attention while I asked for assistance. He was unhelpful. It was humiliating. The fiasco seemed to go on for hours. One problem following another. I couldn't complete a single question. Didn't even start on one!"
Amy's friend Liz, who was also up late suggested - via Facebook - that my dream might have come from looking at the gardening magazine Amy gave me for Father's Day - along with a large Toblerone bar.
It is so tempting to use apparent short cuts when dealing with problems on my allotment. For example why not deal with weeds, especially couch grass, by spraying them with glyphosate? Why not lay into slugs and snails and the many other insect pests with organochlorines, organophosphates, carbamates? Punish them! Notwithstanding endlessly rehearsed environmental arguments, I'm beginning to grasp that there's something else I'm supposed to learn about gardening. There's no substitute for constant attention, daily maintenance, alertness, growing experience and learning, steady work and intelligence. I must use my wits. I realise now that 'pottering' is not something to be mildly ridiculed. If I hit nature head on - or try to - I may think I'm 'winning' for a while. Insects will die; weeds will wither  - for a while. Nature hits back by committing temporary suicide or becoming dependent on my shop-bought nutrients. As in intensive agriculture this deal involves growing crops in a more or less sterilised medium regularly re-sanitised and re-fertilized for successive crops. The off-shoots of this more or less effective process are sold on via a confusing repertory of proprietary products to ordinary gardeners across the land. Of course I risk drowning in the fruitless study of endless abusive argument - Rachel Carson versus Dr. J. Gordon Edwards. ....'continued page 94' as 'Private Eye' would say)

For the moment I am delighted at my allotment. Two years ago I was served an official notice to the effect that if I didn't show more signs of working my plot I would be asked to surrender my lease. Nearly four years ago I was struggling. I didn't always look forward to going out to the plot - just 5 minutes cycle ride away. Now....
Plot 14 in 2011 - same bike and same Oscar

I returned from abroad to find proper onions, planted last September, swelling their hips above weedless dark soil...

At last there's stuff coming out of the plot to which Linda will give the time of day. None of this would be possible had I not realised that I have the inestimable advantage of not having to run the allotment like a business. I made a decision last spring - that regardless, or almost regardless of what i could afford, no expense would be spared to make my allotment a success. Of course I've have miles to go before I sleep; the task is as endless as a piece of string. What's been achieved so far would have been impossible without investment in 'black gold' compost - six builder's sacks of it over a year, two similar sacks of topsoil. Add to that my decision to make a network of paths around separate beds that would ensure that in no case would it be necessary to step on the earth when digging, sowing, weeding, or cropping. Add to that my partnership with Winnie who gardens the plot when I'm there and when we're away.
Next we set about making our own compost. Winnie riddles by the composting bays at the back of the plot
Jerusalem artichokes left, rhubarb and parsnips to the right, with Winnie and Oscar under the shed veranda on Plot 14
The other day seeing black fly on the tops of the broad bean plants I prepared a mix of detergent to spray. Coming back the next morning prepared to kill by drowning and slipperiness I found that this years plentitude of ladybirds had done the job for me in one night. Instead I pinched out the tops of the beans to keep the growth in the pods that are already croppable - delectable little beans that take a while to strip from their pods at the kitchen table.  Of course I can't always rely on ladybirds, but the very health of the crop as a result of the attention to the plot and the good compost worked into the top seven inches of the soil helped, especially as so many of large stones and other hard debris have been systematically removed as we've worked the earth. These several hundred carpet tiles, recovered from an abandoned garden we were tidying with Handsworth Helping Hands have been useful, allowing swift temporary paths and as a supplement to the weed-suppressing fabric pegged down by Winnie across the plot. People visit me on the plot. Ron was round the other day to discuss Sandwell Council's consideration of a S106A to build on a third of Black Patch Park.
Tony Jacks "The picture reminds me of days gone by when men tended their allotments and chewed the cud."

I got permission from Dannie, VJA Secy, to crop the hay from the hay from the allotments next to mine; a chance to give Winnie the tutorial she wanted on using a scythe.

A swift learner she called me her 'ballet teacher'. "Flex your legs, Winnie" "Sweep the ground!" "Get a rhythm" Sharpening too, and adjusting the lay and the grips. The hay we've scythed is piling up nicely against the fence at the bottom of the plot, to add to the compost factory there. At least half a dozen frogs leapt clear into the long grass left along the hedge of plot 15 and the foot of plot 13 where there's a sturdy bramble patch to gve us blackberries late summer. Getting organised I've mapped the plot... help me keep a record of plantings and croppings; to start rotation and queued sowing to avoid gluts.
 There's also been a small calamity. I hardly want to dwell upon it. A letter to the allotment committee just before the meeting the other week:
Dear VJA Committee. Re bees. As you know we had a problem on the allotment last Sunday 7th June. For reasons still unclear but experts suspect was a missing queen following a swarm, the bees which for 3 years have been fine and so welcome, went 'feral', stung two people and frightened away several families from their plot that afternoon. In under 30 minutes I was on my plot with my apiarist friend – Gill Rose - who had come more immediately to the 'rescue’ after a phone call from me. Arriving at my plot I experienced a threat - even on the path while well away from the hive - from a dozen angry bees, and had to back off slowly. Another experienced apiarist – Nigel Fleming (Birmingham Beekeepers Association) - joined us and it was very regretfully decided by him and Gill to apply apicide to the colony. I support their judgement. So now for the first time since June 2010 we have no colony of bees on the VJA, tho' there are still some wild bees roaming the site. I have met and spoken to people affected including the people stung and the people with young children who'd been threatened and had to leave the site. All understood the dilemma. We are preparing the case for reintroducing bees on the allotments and want to make sure we've covered every angle on top of the hazards we had anticipated when the bees first arrived – liability insurance, accreditation of the apiarist, risk assessment, netting around hive, first aid kit to hand, approval by committee after consultation with plot-holders. Everyone I've spoken to seems keen to see the bees back and is sad that such drastic action was needed. Any advice? What is the view of the VJA Committee on re-introducing a bee colony to the site? Did the people directly responsible respond the ‘bee crisis’ swiftly and responsibly; call to Simon from Danny W at 15.37 on Sunday? - attendance at the hive by 16.10; - decision to apply apicide when all bees had returned to hive; - 18.15 Simon notified by Gill that colony has been destroyed; - from 16.00 Simon on site talking to people affected, with follow up on subsequent days and via Facebook and email to VJA committee members Kindest regards, Simon, Plot 14, VJA
Two days after the bee colony was killed I ventured into the net surround of the hive. Gill had removed the top tiers. In what was left of the massacre was a plastic sandwich box. Lidless. Lining its bottom, a mass of small scorched corpses. Blackened. Around the edges of the hive a few bees still stirred weakly. I set about clearing up, putting the remains on the compost.
The bees on Plot 14 in happier times
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In Ano Korakiana last weekend - a party with music, singing and dancing at Piatsa...
"Γλέντι μετά μουσικής" στο καφέ - "Piatsa" διοργάνωσε χθες το βράδυ (Σάββατο 20 Ιουνίου 2015) ο ΠΑΟΚ, με ποτό, σουβλάκι και μουσική από την ορχήστρα του Γιώργου Μαυρομάτη, που μας χάρισε όμορφες μελωδίες, μέχρι μετά τα μεσάνυχτα, δίνοντας παράλληλα έναν τόνο ζωής στο χωριό μας.Οι παρέες είχαν πιάσει διάφορες γωνιές στα παράπλευρα του δρόμου και απόλαυσαν τα τραγούδια του Γιώργου και των συνεργατών του...Στις ζεμπελιές διέπρεψαν ο Κώστας Σαββανής και η Αγγέλα Θύμη!

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