Friday, 2 October 2015

Being a tourist

I’ve just hung out a tub of washing in the garden. I find this more satisfying than, as in Scotland, shoving spun-dried washing into a tumble dryer for forty minutes or hanging things on the washing rack strung on ropes and pulleys in our cramped boiler room in Birmingham. I so enjoy seeing the suspended clothes, dish clothes and towels swinging gently, sometimes frantically, under the sun in a sea breeze. It’s very seldom warm and dry enough to do the same in Handsworth – though I have a line hung hopefully between fence posts across our lawn there.
Yesterday I cycled into town about 15 kilometres - easy enough. Indeed a pleasure. Coming back i dealt with the ascent to Ano Korakiana by cycling, but also walking on gravel lanes along the valley from the sea at Ipsos up to the village.

So Valerie’s been with us three weeks. In that time we’ve been tourists, taking her to places on the island, driving on many country lanes edged by cyclamen, and olive groves above and below; to the Achilleon...
Upstairs at the Achilleon - Franz von Matsch's celebration of Achilles' notorious war crime Kaiser’s Throne above Pelekas. with its superlative views of suburban Corfu...
The view from Kaiser's Throne along the south west coast of Corfu the quiet shore at Agnos to paddle and sunbathe and read for several hours, to Domino’s in Anilipsi to swim in their pool and lounge on their lawn, and do the same at two pool bars in Paleokastritsa, to drink in a bar at the ‘little England’ of Sidari...
Main Street, Sidari the island’s highest point on the vertiginous summit of mount Pantokrator gazing over to Saranda, Butrinti and the Albanian peaks beyond the narrow Corfu Straits....

...up the twenty-nine hairpin bend road above our village, stopping to visit the tiny church of St Isadoras...

....before ascending to the panoramic outlook of Sokraki Villas sitting by their horizon pool surveying the island as far as the eye could see...
Sokraki Villas looking south Emily’s in the Platea of Sokraki for drinks and snacks, giros amid pouring rain under a vine lined roof at George’s in Kontokali, supper at Strapunto on the road to Kato Korakiana, and, with Mark and his brother-in-law Paul and sister Michelle, at Elizabeth’s in Dukades, several times to Emeral near Tzavros for ice cream, to enjoy a curry evening on our friend Sally’s balcony in the village; to Corfu town to stroll and eat, to Kalami, to sea-front snacks under a large umbrella at Kassiopi (where I've been told by the manager at Plous Bookshop a diligent ex-schoolmaster drummed up some of the votes Corfu's electors have given the new Golden Dawn MP, Ioannis Aivatidis in the Sept 20th General Election); to the beach at Dassia – usually tranquil – where warm southerly gusts brought breaking waves and pouring rain; on the last ferry of the summer to Vido island for a swim and meal....
Sunday afternoon on Vido Island (photo Linda Baddeley) the quiet English Cemetery half a kilometre from San Rocco Square, centre of the new town; to the resort of Agios Gordis below the high cliffs of the west coast to look at shops and flocks of sun loungers spread on an end-of-season beach; to Kanoni to watch planes landing and taking off, by small boat from Vlacherna jetty to visit Pontikonisi and, near the end of Val’s stay, coffee and cake at the village’s new café Crescendo and a generously offered opportunity from the artist’s family to see the sculptures of AristeidisMetallinos in the closed museum* of our village, and on several occasions a relaxed drink at the village ‘pub’ - Stammati’s Piatsa thirty yards from our house and to have supper with friends Stephanie and Wesley at home, and to lounge now and then on our balcony.
*At the family's request I've written what I hope is a gentle letter to Corfu Mountain Bikes' owners to explain why it is so difficult to get to see the sculptures in the Museum in Ano Korakiana:
Visitors to Ano Korakiana outside the closed museum (photo Linda Baddeley)

Dear Kostas and Hans
I wonder if I can ask you to mention, when you are visiting Ano Korakiana with your guests and come to the Aristeidis Metallinos Museum, that although the place is, very sadly, not open to visitors, and has not been for many years, my family are, with the support of the Metallinos family, creating a website catalogue of professional photos of all 250 of the laic sculptor's works.
We hope to have this up and running in 2016, so that anyone interested can view the work of Aristeidis Metallinos on the internet, and perhaps through their smart phones even while they are in the village.
The family have recognised that through talking about the village sculptor on my blog Democracy Street I may inadvertently have raised expectations that visitors can get to see inside the museum.This is simply not possible.
I spoke briefly to ‘Napoleon’ a few days ago (when he was in the village with a group of visitors) and explained in more detail why it has proved impossible to open the museum to visitors, asking that Corfu Mountainbike Shop Guides do not call on the family at the museum. They are troubled and embarrassed at having to explain their reasons for having to refuse entry to their father’s/grandfather’s museum.
Aristeidis Metallinos is a most interesting man and we understand how even a glimpse from outside the house might make people who have heard about the artist, want to have a look inside the building that houses his work.
These are the wikipedia articles - in English and Greek - I have so far posted about the village sculptor. We hope to make more information available in the next year. The family greatly value your understanding in this matter, and I know the village greatly welcomes your guided visits to Ano Korakiana. Kindest regards,
Simon....Σάïμον και Λίντα Μπάντλεϊ, Οδός Δημοκρατίας
*** *** ***
It was a dream from which I awoke gripped by happy astonishment, knowing that, awake, I could not command the language to describe what my slumbering imagination had conjured. Near the end I was looking down at a young director – or so he or she seemed to me. Others had been ahead of me speaking to this small modest dynamo. I looked down into his - or her - eyes breathless, choked with the joy of what I’d been watching
“You made magic come alive. Thank you”
I hugged the delicate figure gently and was looked up at with compassion.
She/he was, seeing my tears dropping so copiously she/he touched and held my arms gently, and said something I could not hear, in an accented voice, that seemed to be consoling
“No no” I said “You have made me so happy”
Awake it struck me that if in the liminal state of dreaming I could invent a performance so astounding, so grippingly beautiful, if the visions came from inside my head, things I had never seen in my life inside or outside of art, fiction, cinema, or show, yet drawing on visions and fictions and that I could reference to what my eyes and ears have seen and read and heard in 70 years, then were I as talented awake I could do and invent anything.
Perhaps I was weeping in less than happiness. Perhaps I was weeping as the newborn cries – in folk tale – as it enters the world from paradise, or weeping for not being gifted. Proust said writing entails working in a dream-state, knowing you’re awake, but stopping yourself from waking. What I saw in my dream had the charisma of ‘Revelations’, the last book, the detail of all Bosch and Breughel, the spectacle of Cirque du Soleil (tho' they don't work with the animals I saw) and music that gripped my insides as though it had entered my chest other than through my ears, so also what I saw seemed to have gone straight to my brain through more senses than sight.
We were assembled in a large hall, high as the knave of Winchester, yet more like a marquee, wholly coloured the blue of a cloudless sky before dusk. Various performers were exercising in costume on a variety of spirited horses of glistening fitness amid a crowd assembled in knots across the vast floor lit from invisible sources. Who was there? Perhaps everybody in six degrees of separation. I had no worry with thinking ‘we’ were to see a preview, which in waking memory was the moment I entered my dream.  Useless to describe the moment when a performer of a sudden begins their performance, rather than limbering up or rehearsing since we were both behind the scene yet in its midst. Somehow several horses had climbed on the backs, unfazed by ungainly hooves, of two more horses, then two or three more, making one great horse on which a rider sat towering above us, the illusion screened by an immense and richly coloured tapestry flowing in undulating folds to the floor, while from one end of this caparison appeared a head larger than any of the many horses beneath the lovely robe and, at the other end, a tail of similar magnificence, both seeming alive but somehow composed of parts of smaller horses and, perhaps, people in skillfully contorted disguise. This towering breathing masquerade, imitating the fluid movement of a single animal, processed gracefully to the end of the hall infused and enveloped by music in complement to the vision, to meet another artifice as high and vast as the other. The single horse which we knew to be made up of many horses greeted its twin beneath an apse at the apex of the hall. From its head sprang a smaller horse that seemed ridden by a cherub lit with bright lights that no more dazzled than the music deafened. The audience gasped in admiration. The scene was celestial. I looked up in delighted awe as the horses disassembled and performed an impossible aerial ballet of delicate harmony with all of us and one another as the light softened to a deeper dusk and left everything for a while in semi-darkness as the performance ended – hardly a minute for all my dream-sense of time suspended.  Still asleep I was entranced beyond any accessible expression. I awoke happy but slightly embarrassed. I’d been trying to hear what the director had been saying to me that I couldn’t catch and had moved with them to a door near the end of the hall which opened to reveal the busy interior of women’s changing room into which I’d been trying to continue my attempts at conversation. I retreated with apologies and woke up.  

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

'The cold outside'

"Welcome home" said Mark over my phone "A beer at Piatsa?"

It was long before the film of Zorba the Greek, a few weeks before Easter 1957 - ours had been on April 8th (I checked on Google). Greeks held theirs on April 21 that year. I was 16. By the time my train got to Larissa, it was hours after midnight. I was half-asleep; a compartment to myself – the seventh day of a rail journey from London via Paris and Venice where I’d spent two days in an elated stupor breathing the smell of damp paving.
Abruptly the door of the compartment was slid open. A wedding guest party surrounded me, chatting, gesturing, drinking. Vexed by their thoughtless invasion of my space I signalled them to quieten down “pleease!”.
Used to exercising weight, tutored to being in authority, I probably missed an initial hint of displeasure across the carriage of this Greek train on Greek soil. I do recall their amusement. There was the offer of a drink (tsiporo?) and gestured encouragement to join in. Surrounded  by happy laughter, not mockery, I turned, irritated, towards the darkness beyond the steamed window of the train rumbling down to Athens.  There, at dawn, on a low platform, the Greek side of my family awaited with joyous greetings, and many disturbing hugs and kisses. Through a tiny window from the loo of yia-yia's flat in Kolonaki I saw the Parthenon - no longer the familiar schoolbook illustration, the real place!
Five years later I was with a friend. We’d sailed on a small boat from England drifting ahead through August heat for landfall. After a swift reach from Sicily. sunrise on the third day, the good wind abandoned our small vessel on a limpid mirror. Fifty years later the moment remains as dreamlike as at the time; glimpsing the forms of land melded to white sky and coppery sea - a way to the mainland of Greece between Cephalonia and Zakinthos into the Gulf of Patras, 170 miles from Piraeus and the city to which I’d determined to return.
I spent my first twenty five years in a fog of schooled and inherited insensibility, almost impervious to the wisdom of generous parents – English and Greek - who probably knew that, as perhaps for them, only time would tell me.
In 1968 I was with one side of my family again. They’d flown on to Greece. My dad wanted a car while we were there. Over four days I drove his small Hillman through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy and by ferry to Greece (Patras? Igoumenitsa?) sleeping one night in a field above the sea, a few yards from a narrow road. From Piraeus I took another ferry to join the Greek side of my family in Aegina. We returned to Athens for a day, where, with my diplomatic family, I attended a house party somewhere near Vouliagmeni, hosted by a man whose bald head I glimpsed for a few seconds, Colonel Stylianos Pattakos
It was only in Detroit, married a year later, meeting American Greeks - and Greek exiles from the Junta - that I grasped the discomforting notion of ‘sides’, of Greece as a polity, of animosities and moral positions, words and facts and opinions that left the paper-fragranced sentences of my superlative education – in one ear as others' thoughts, out of my mouth as words for conversation and essays, and out of the other ear unedited.
Though it seems so in memory, I could not have been quite that one-dimensional, except perhaps at my mother’s breast. My CV, by the time I was thirty, was enough to ease me into academia where, mostly fuddled, time did begin at last to tell and I began to listen.
It was 25 years before I came to Greece again.
Flying to Greece - Amy, Linda, Richard

Standing in the cockpit of our Airbus (full of screens and no joystick) where passengers could – pre-9/11 – still be invited for a pilot’s glimpse of the world ahead, I stood behind my family (now my second marriage), as with Linda, Richard and Amy, we flew high over the border of Greece; able to see to port the glow of Thessaloniki; ahead the greater glow of Athens; to starboard a moonlit Ionian Sea and far below, in inky blackness, clusters of tiny glittering diamonds - villages in the foothills of the Pindos.
“Children! There’s Greece”
In the dim cabin tears welled from my eyes with the delight – and the idea – of sharing ‘my’ Greece with my wife and children. I could not speak for a moment.
Met by our relative’s driver we were swept into Athens towards Kifissia. My half-Greek half-brother and his family were with us. He too hadn't been back to Greece for a long time. Shopping malls flashed by; showrooms with glistening new cars behind picture windows, furniture shops displaying stainless steel and leather, fashion boutiques, a bright neon frieze.
“Amazing!” said George “It’s a modern European city”
I was presented with a Greece that was without the strange and magical difference that had struck me and fixed itself in my memory decades earlier. Air travel had taken away distance. All seemed lit by the familiar light of common day, modern, grown-up, no longer enchantable, respecting routine, far less dumb, a man who’d returned to meet the boy who several times had left Greece seduced by something that had been other and exotic.
I noticed blemishes – ugly architecture, urban rubbish. We enjoyed our holiday immensely. I was delighted and relieved my family liked this familiar Greece as much as I - even if not as I had first seen the place - climbing up to the Acropolis together tho’ by then the inside was fenced off to tourists, strolling in the Agora, taking the train about the city, driving through great mountain ranges of the Peloponnese via Sparta and Kalamata to Pylos, picking our way through the ruined fort of Methoni crumbling battlements and sudden chasms unhindered by health and safety warnings, sipping from the Pierian spring by the Roman temple of Corinth, where we plucked fresh figs, visiting islands in the Aegean.
Life went on. My dad died long ago. My mum, who’d divorced him years before then (hence his second marriage to an Athenian and my Greek family), remained the bridge to yet another country – the past, in which I’d not lived, an unknowable land of fantasy and invention, and the landscapes of the Highlands and its clear peat waters.
River Farnack in Strathnairn with Oscar
Σα βγεις στον πηγαιμό για την Κέρκυρα να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος...

We could talk about our separate experiences, my adventures as novel to her and hers to me.
My Greek stepmother Maria had, like this modern Greece, become part of an ordinary present, older, almost British, no longer part of the wondrous seduction of that distant land where I’d arrived by rail, sea and road so long ago.
Coming back to Greece - painted in 1970. Hung until she died above my mother's bed. Now I'm unsure where to put it.

I come aged 66 to the morning around our kitchen table in Handsworth. My beloved daughter, Amy, tells her mum she’s seen a yacht on a free mooring for sale in Corfu on ebay. I bought it, on an unwise impulse that brought Linda and I to Greece to buy a small house in the village of Ano Korakiana.
Beforehand, our very first evening in Corfu, hire car from the airport, having seen the boat and been disappointed but resigned to our purchase; considering the possibility of ‘making a list’ of things to be done, we went to an English bar on the cluttered strip-front of Ipsos, looking over the Corfu Sea to the bare mountains of Albania and Epirus. Our fellow customers were British. Notices, including our menu, were in English. In amiable company we had our first meal in Corfu – fish and chips with mushy peas; vinegar beside HP sauce. Above the bar a flat screen played desultorily watched news of the world delivered with loud familiar voices by familiar faces interspersed with pop and football. On shelves in a corner were popular paperbacks to be exchanged; below them a week-old British newspaper, headlining an event in the public life of a celebrity. We inhabited ‘modern times’.
No longer do I leave ‘here’ to arrive ‘there’, separated by poste restante mail and, in emergency, complicated phone calls by appointment. Here and there is now everywhere.
I can sample the 'other'; what is different, exotic, foreign but welcoming – what I experienced and enjoyed in Greece at 16 – I can take a cycle ride in Handsworth in my England and see and greet men and boys in djellabas leaving their mosques, women in black wearing veils over all but part of their face, Sikhs in turbans from their Gurdwara, woolly hats in the national colours of Jamaica, dreadlocks, weave, ....

Soho Road, Handsworth

....Somalians, Eritreans, Kurds, Iraqis, Syrians escaping war and poverty in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, and, since EU enlargement, Poles, Roma from Rumania, Lithuanians, Bulgarians, Ukrainians, Turks, even Moldovans, also Christians from Vietnam, and, on our allotments, a Chinese family. On the Soho Road, a short walk from home, the few small supermarkets are outnumbered by the high street shops serving Handsworth’s bouillabaisse. Near home I overhear myriad languages and dialects, beginner’s English, Brummie accented.
Birmingham New Street

But since no-one would yet – or ever - consider Handsworth or its sibling inner suburbs encircling our city’s centre, a touristic, or even a gentrified destination unlike London's Brick Lane, here’s no threat to personal autonomy and human dignity as a result of visitors’ objectifications of local cultures; no more risk of having our encounters ‘commodified’ than in Anatolian Smyrna or 19th century Alexandria; no likelihood our place will be ‘spoiled’.
Here among my good neighbours...
On our street crime, ill-health, mental illness, deprivation, disappointment, sadness and loss. Part of the population is transient, waiting, amid the wealth of successful immigrants planning to leave for new homes far from the centre. Here is village life in the city - a littered place of ill-repute where some strangers fear to visit - more so after dark - and indentured sociologists write semi-scanned policy papers for government. Where we’ve lived for forty years.
"Welcome home" said Mark over the phone to me in the village the afternoon of our arrival in Ano Korakiana.
I don’t think of Greece as a place where I have a second home, as might families of a certain prosperity and provenance. All over Handsworth are families of our imploded empire who make return visits to their natal villages – in Pakistan, Kashmir, the Punjab, the Caribbean, as also the villages and towns of Eastern Europe. We are nearer to them in our transhumance – returning home now and then.
Time to return to the pages of fairy stories? 'Once upon a time….there was a town, a little house, a great dark forest'
….I first met him in Piraeus. I wanted to take the boat for Crete and had gone down to the port. It was almost daybreak and raining. A strong sirocco was blowing the spray from the waves as far as the little café, whose glass doors were shut. The café reeked of brewing sage and human beings whose breath steamed the windows because of the cold outside....

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Late summer in Greece

Our balcony is festooned with grapes. I eat them pips and all. Down at Piatsa with Mark we were canvassed at the weekend by SYRIZA's MP Fotini Vaki. I took the opportunity to give Richard Pine's latest book - this one about Greece 'through Irish eyes' - some exposure...The general election is next Sunday - tomorrow. The village will be full of voters and cars but there's far less excitement about this election than the one in January. Alexis Tsipras is now another bail-out signatory, mucking down to EU conditions due in October as part of the next tranche of prop-up credit...
At Piatsa on Democracy Street with my friend Mark and Fotini Vaki MP

I have two complimentary copies of Richard's book, one for me and one for Angeliki Metallinos, whose grandfather's work appears on page 244...
The other day, a while away, we had a family supper to celebrate Arthur's and Dorothy's 70th wedding anniversary. Cards at Clinton's ran out at the 50th. Our waitress kindly took a photo of us at Toby's Carvery in Sutton...
Guy, Simon, Richard, Linda, Hannah, Dorothy, Arthur, Amy and Oliver
It's almost astonishing that Dorothy is enduring three weeks of radiotherapy for cancer; treatment she undergoes with stoicism and dignity - a few minutes every afternoon at the cancer unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston. Sometime near the end of last year, in part as a result of pressure from Lin, the medics switched from care that could be regarded as 'palliative', to therapy at probably the best hospital in the kingdom. They made a plastic mould of Dot's face that holds her head steady as, lying on a table, the large and very expensive linear accelerator directs beams at specific points on her face, targeting her nasal cavity cancer - result, Lin's surmised, of her mum's work years ago in the leather industry in Walsall.
My father-in-law and my mother-in-law - Dorothy (91) and Arthur (97) in our garden in Handsworth

*** *** ***
Minor irritations, that didn’t bother great Achilles…
Outside the unique Achilleon Palace with Lin's cousin Val beside Herter's cheesy sculpture of the dying Achilles 1884 filling my paper coffee cup during turbulence at 30.000 feet from small spits of milk squeezed from a fistful of catering packs passed down from the passing trolley...
Sent 22 Aug 2015 by Simon B ... Your ref: *** Parking charge notice: *** This morning I received Debt Recovery Plus Ltd’s demand for payment of an unpaid parking charge dated **/08/2014. Can we proceed to court on this matter at our mutual and earliest convenience, rather than any party wasting further time exchanging correspondence?  I have evidence to present to a judge from a file on this incident that goes back to the date of the charge, most of it involving certified letters and notices which received neither acknowledgement nor replies from UK Parking Control Ltd. Yours sincerely… 
Received 28th Aug. Thank you for your email regarding the above Parking Charge Notice (PCN). As per the British Parking Association’s (BPA) Code of Practice, Point 22.7, the time to challenge the charge has now expired and therefore access to the Independent Appeals Service (if applicable) is no longer available….I feel obligated to inform you that, under the Pre-Action Protocol of the Civil Procedural Rules, court action must only be viewed as a last resort. I am attempting to abide by this direction by trying to settle the matter amicably without court involvement. Your actions may be viewed as obstructive to this aim and will be made clear to the court should the matter escalate to such a stage. Please ensure that £150.00 is paid by 1th September 2015. Payment can be made online or by phone…. 
Sent 29 August 2015…I’ve asked for this matter to be brought to court so that I can, as well as presenting a defence, describe my attempts to communicate with your client, who failed to acknowledge that I had issued an appeal immediately after the imposition of the parking charge, failed to give my appeal due consideration and failed in their legal requirement to inform me of my right to appeal to an independent body. You claim to be attempting to comply with Pre-Action Protocol of the Civil Procedural Rules, as this is actually the responsibility of the private parking company, not of a debt collection agency. I deny this alleged debt. Any debt can only be established by a court hearing. No court hearing has taken place regarding this speculative invoice and UKPC had no legal grounds for referring this matter to a debt collection agency. I am under no obligation to have any communication with you and, should I receive any further correspondence from you, other than an acknowledgement of this letter, will seek compensation for harassment. Yours truly, etc 
Received 1st September 2015...Thank you for your email. Harassment has been referred to and therefore I feel obliged to point out that under S1(3)(c) of The Harassment Act 1997, a course of conduct that someone alleges to be harassment will not be deemed so if the person who pursued it shows that in the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable. Under the circumstances our course of action has been entirely reasonable and in no way reaches the high threshold of harassment. Our company has legitimately pursued recompense for a breach of the terms and conditions attached to our client’s site. Kind regards 
Sent 1st September…Dear ***. You are saying that pursuing someone for a debt unproven by a court is ‘reasonable’. UK courts disagree. I will treat this letter as an acknowledgement of my last email as requested. Yours….I
On other early spring we had a water meter installed. The work sprung a leak on our side of the meter. The water company requires us, who'd asked for a meter to save on water rates exceeding £800, to pay the repair of the supply pipe to our house. A friendly and intelligent agency plumber found the leak under our driveway. There’d be no need to delve expensively under the house. He warned that mending would take many weeks while his company gained permission to access the pavement a few inches from our frontage. 8 weeks later and into autumn this permission has yet to be obtained. The leak continues. We hear it in the pipes. Our insurance covers the work, for an excess charge of £200. We’d feared more, and the water company, on a one-off condition, guarantees a post meter installation refund of the charge for the leaked water. We wait.

...and another, in our attic next to our header tank  - increasingly rare in these days of closed systems – there’s an expansion tank. For about a year water heated to provide a shower would, after a few minutes of the boiler lighting, splutter forcibly out of the pipe into that tank, overflow it and leak through the landing ceiling into a plastic tray placed to collect the worst of the drips, whose brownish water made discreet drip lines down the plasterwork. Yacub, our neighbour, a heating engineer, after repeated pleas inspected and suggested a new thermostat. I dug out the paperwork for our 30 year-old boiler, identified make and mark; bought the part on ebay for under £30. A second visit by Yacub. He suggested the thermostat wasn’t the problem. Perhaps, he surmised, "You need a thermostat on your boiler tank upstairs" “Perhaps?” There the problem rested through warm months until we thought of winter. I phoned Dermott, recommended by a neighbour, who came almost at once. His inspection said the boiler needed a thermostat. I dug out the spare from ebay. He fitted it in minutes and waited with, us testing the repair. £140 for his expertise. A worry off our list. We left the plastic tray where it was – in case.
*** ***
In early September I’m alerted by a text from a a friend, that the company that produced and retails my stepfather’s recovered TV programmes has ‘gone into administration’. I ask about the timing of my next royalty cheque – due in August, a useful sum.
Dear X. I have heard troubling news that xxx have been put into administration. If this is not the case please reassure me to that effect. If it is true can you please forward me contact details for the administrator. Yours S 
Dear Simon. I am sorry I haven't spoken to you, but have been out at meeting for the last couple of days. We are having to sell the business, through no fault of our own, which hopefully should be finalised in the next couple of days. The purchaser will no doubt be in touch with you. No, we are not in Administration, I can only guess who told you we were. Best wishes X 
Dear X. So I miss Jan-Jun royalties!  Can I assume that this is 'for the time being' and that what I should have been paid in August will be swiftly paid by your new owners. When can I expect the new owners to honour the obligations they acquired with the purchase of the business? I’d appreciate contact details rather than having to wait until they choose to contact me. I am, as you may imagine, seriously vexed at missing over £xxxx expected for half-year earnings on sale of OOT DVDs. Yours Simon 
I'm not at all happy with the situation myself Simon. It's all due to AAAA, at the end of April we were due a payment for CDs we supplied for £140,000. We received from AAAA £10,000 and £130,000 worth of stock back for credit. It made YYYY, our bankers, panic, wanting their overdraft repaid ASAP. We have sold the racking business, but (are) still to be paid some money. We have two sealed offers for the rest of the business. It will be decided who gets it and the terms in the next few days. Best regards X Sent …from my iPhone
It’s my guess that the company is already in administration.

These things would have no more effect than a slightly barked shin on my normal sense of slightly detached optimism and well-being, especially when balanced against such good things as my shared involvement in maintaining the profile of Black Patch Park…
- The plan to build on part of it still exists but in 18 months has made no progress tho’ we stay in congenial touch with Tony Deep MBE of Eastside Foods... 

Andrews letter to Sandwell MBC this July…. Our constitution states: “The Friends of Black Patch Park is a group committed to the retention in perpetuity of the whole of Black Patch Park and to the improvement of the Park for the benefit of all local people.“ Endorsing a development that would see a significant proportion of the park disappear is therefore a major step for the Friends to take and will in our view require much more detailed information on what is being proposed and dialogue on how any proposed development might be done in such a way as to minimise the social and environmental impacts, while maximising the benefits to the park – its heritage and biodiversity – and the current and future and park users.
The Friends Christmas card in 2006 - The Black Patch in winter (photo: Karen Fry)

- Wikipedia’s entry on Charlie Chaplin does not admit the man was born on the Black Patch – does anyone? – but no longer confidently claims London as his birthplace
- With support from my fellow Friends of Black Patch Park I’ve suggested the park become the responsibility of Birmingham – message to the committee”
Hi everyone. Below my words is an acknowledgement from the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) . I am copying this to Cllr Sharon Thompson of Soho Ward who has shown an active interest in this proposal and endorses the idea that Black Patch be brought back into Birmingham as her electorate comprise its main users.
QUOTE TO LGBCE consultation on 4th Sept 2015 from Simon Baddeley on behalf of the FoBPP: For the committee of the Friends of Black Patch Park I have been asked to make recommendations to alter the boundary of Soho Ward in Birmingham to include this park, which, until 1974, was inside Birmingham. Black Patch Park is presently inside Sandwell MBC, bounded by Foundry Lane, Woodburn Road, Perrott Street and Kitchener Street, at grid reference SP038888. I’ve not marked the consultation map with specific details as the Boundary Commission may, via other consultations, have an expert understanding of ways to include this green space in Birmingham’s Soho Ward. The argument for including Black Patch Park within Soho, has been informed by discussion with Soho Ward members, Cllrs Sharon Thompson and Chaman Lal, who, with us, argue that most users of the park, and those most likely to approach their councillors about the park, and its unused community centre, are nearby residents of Birmingham. Over 20 years all but a few Sandwell residents, once living next to the Black Patch, have moved. The main users of this potentially attractive small green space are separated from it, not by geography, but by a council boundary that we propose should be changed. (END)
…and the fecundity of the allotment.
“A work of art” surmises Winnie “That’s what it’ll be!”
We sit under the shed veranda sipping tea looking past the grape-fringed trellis admiring our new fruit cage – a structure held together by carefully propped bamboos and bright green scaffolding net.

Winnie and her boy on Plot 14

I've numbered every bed at last.
..and started notes...
PLOT 14 ~ 8 Sept 2015

Asparagus – 8 plants from Scylla’s plots lifted and replanted 2/9/15 Daff bulbs planted 9/9 in corners. [Potatoes sown and harvested March-June – wireworm)
Grazing rye (Secale cereale) seeded 6/9/15 – experiment with green manure. Spring 2016 dig in
This bed (perhaps others wireworm infested – ruining potatoes). Potato traps set (spuds on sticks under soil) 9/9 daff bulbs planted on two edges [Onions sown and harvested – Jan-July’15. Some onion fly]
Runner beans – seedlings planted June 2015.  West end of bed: turnips planted from seed in June. Not thinned enough?
Brussel sprouts – seedlings planted June. Attacked by cabbage white caterpillars despite netting, also slugs. Used pellets, and cut off egged and skeletonised leaves.
Beetroots. Grown from seeds germinated at home and replanted mid-June. Mixed success. (Peas sown and harvested – March-early June’15. Leaves damaged by pigeons)
Fallow [Potatoes sown and harvested March-Aug’15]
Garlic – cloves from previous crop planted 7/9/15
Aubergine. 4 plants from seedlings in mid-June. Unlikely to fruit.
Swedes planted from seed in early June. North: Brussels sprouts (ditto as for bed 5
Jerusalem artichoke clump. Regrowing from last year’s tubers. Apple tree
Pear. Balm scented poplar. Buddleia
Apple. Plum. Stone garden
Pond. Various edge plants. Wild strawberry, rushes, speargrass, Chives, Lobelia 4/9/15
Rhubarb x 2 planted March 2015. No harvest 1st year
fallow. Couple of transplanted parsnips.
Parsnips. Already harvesting. Germinated in early March 2015 and sown out late March.
East: turnip planted June. West: Winter cabbage seeded June. All netted.
Brussels sprouts – seedlings planted mid-June.  As in beds 5 & 10, attacked by cabbage white caterpillars despite netting, also slugs. Used pellets, and cut off egged and skeletonised leaves.
Mountain Ash.  Thyme & Rosemary trans-planted from Scylla’s plot 3/9/15.  Rhubarb planted in March’15. No harvest 1st year
Runner beans. Planted from seedlings in early June. Harvesting started mid-Aug
Fruit net. Raspberry, tayberry, gooseberry bushes planted in late Aug.
Fruit net. Raspberry, tayberry planted late Aug.  West: cauliflower [Broad beans sown and harvested April-June’15. Winnie planted in April after my sowing in March failed]
Fruit net. Strawberries planted end of Aug – transplants from Scylla’s plot

3 compost bays were built at the end of March 2015. Usable earth in Bay 3, from riddled soil recovered from plot digging and added well rotted leaf-mould. Older compost in bay 1 seems working down well (8/9/15). Later material with added accelerator has gone into bay 2. This is warm. On 5/9/15 I experimented by added approx 75 brandling worms to bays 1 & 2. Both 1 & 2 are covered with carpet over 6” thick insulation blocks.

There are also 2 plastic upright composters for immediate organic material.
*** *** ***
...and a message from the Chair of Handsworth Helping Hands
Hello Simon. Preparing Environmental article ‎for Birchfield Bugle and wondering how many residents we would have serviced over last year with our activities. I'm thinking 1500 households and say 20 Vulnerable individuals, but I could be wrong, any idea on tonnage dropped off to Holford, furniture recycled, etc? Cheers, Mike
Dear Mike. Excellent. My guess - part conjectural. Tonnage of waste to Holford during 2014-2015 under our charity disposal licence is about 13 tonnes - all recorded in the van log. We’ve also probably removed a great deal more in the skips we and partners pay for when doing street clean-up days, so you could add, at a guess, at least another 20 tons ,to which you might add the skimming off of overloads of skips by Council Fleet and Waste. 1500 households could include all residents in streets where we run clean-up days as well as households benefiting from our scavenging - removing specific items from an address and at the same time an eyesore from neighbouring homes.
Might be better to use van log to list all the streets where we have had both ‘Skip-it Don’t tip it’ days as well as the two places we’ve done or started ‘Clean up Green up’ projects as well as various planters all over the area.
I think we’ve assisted more than 20 vulnerable individuals with clearance, furniture moving, gift recycling, gardening, and specific assistance with phoning and contacting people needing help they couldn’t get themselves from BCC and/or Midland Heart - but again we should add these all up next committee.
I think HHH has (with a very small number of mostly pension-age volunteers) established a reputation for ‘working’, ‘getting things done’, even ‘settling disputes through tactful conversations with neighbours’ (educational work re collection dates and how to fill recycling bins etc.). We have I believe always been polite and shown good will in even frustrating situations (in other words we are Handsworth street-wise’, plus we seem to have done well in partnerships with MH, Fleet and Waste, Community Foundation, and BRAG...and of course many residents in streets we’ve worked over the year/s. We’re also transparent as regards accounts and minutes of our meetings.
I am sure you won’t crow about this, Mike. Complement those who’ve helped us; mention generous donations to HHH, some of which, if not receipted cash donations, include gifts we’ve passed on to Birmingham Charities - SIFA Fireside, Red Cross, City Mission, and the Birmingham Dogs’ Home, also the pensioners' buffet at The Stork Pub last Christmas.
We should also mention our lively use of Facebook with illustrations for social networking and exchange of information with residents, city officers and elected members about HHH but also as a noticeboard for other local events in Handsworth, Lozells and Birchfield, plus work done identifying unoccupied, abandoned properties that have become rubbish magnets and, in one case, a cannabis factory. Lobbying members and officers, HHH has managed to draw attention to vacant properties whose owners are supposed to pay extra on top of council tax for leaving them empty. We have also dealt with the gating of alleys, cul-de-sacs and vulnerable green spaces where security has been lax, identifying who is responsible for maintenance and replacement. In this way HHH have ensured that some of the ‘grot spots’ in the area no longer attract fly-tipping. We have also, without becoming party political, been using reports on Fix My Street and photos on the social web, to keep the issue of street cleaning and tidiness on the Council’s agenda.

You might mention that commendation from the last Lord Mayor last March! Best wishes, Simon
Tea break for HHH volunteers courtesy of a resident

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