Monday, 23 March 2015

Αγαπητέ Καγκελάριος

Letter sent prior to a meeting in Berlin today between Alexis Tsipras and Angela Merkel

Dear Chancellor 
I am writing to you to express my deep concern about developments since the 20th February 2015 Eurogroup agreement, which was preceded two days earlier by a letter from our Minister of Finance* outlining a number of issues that the Eurogroup ought to resolve, issues which I consider to be important, including the need:
(a) To agree the mutually acceptable financial and administrative terms the implementation of which, in collaboration with the institutions, will stabilise Greece’s financial position, attain appropriate fiscal surpluses, guarantee debt stability and assist in the attainment of fiscal targets for 2015 that take into account the present economic situation. 
(b) To allow the European Central Bank to re-introduce the waiver in accordance with its procedures and regulations. 
(c) To commence work between technical teams on a possible new Contract for Recovery and Development that the Greek authorities envisage between Greece, Europe and the International Monetary Fund, to follow the current Agreement. 
(d) To discuss means of enacting the November 2012 Eurogroup decision regarding possible further debt measures and assistance for implementation after the completion of the extended Agreement and as a part of the follow-up Contract.
Based on the in-principle acceptance of this letter and its content, the President of the Eurogroup convened the 20th February meeting which reached a unanimous decision expressed in a communiqué. The latter constitutes a new framework for the relationship between Greece, its partners, and its institutions.
More precisely, the 20th February Eurogroup agreement stipulated a number of points outlining this new framework and process, including:
(a) The Greek authorities will present a first list of reform measures, based on the current arrangement, by the end of Monday, February 23. The institutions will provide a first view whether this is sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point for a successful conclusion of the review. This list will be further specified and then agreed with the institutions by the end of April. 
(b) The Greek authorities have expressed their strong commitment to a broader and deeper structural reform process aimed at durably improving growth and employment prospects, ensuring stability and resilience of the financial sector and enhancing social fairness. The authorities commit to implementing long overdue reforms to tackle corruption and tax evasion, and improving the efficiency of the public sector. In this context, the Greek authorities undertake to make best use of the continued provision of technical assistance. 
(c) We remain committed to provide adequate support to Greece until it has regained full market access as long as it honours its commitments within the legal framework. 
Based on this common ground, the Minister of Finance sent to the President of the Eurogroup a letter, dated 23rd February 2015, with the aforementioned “first list of reforms” [see (a) above] proposed by the government. On 24th February 2015 the said “first list” was accepted by the institutions as “sufficiently comprehensible to be a valid starting point for a successfully conclusion of the review” by 20th April 2015.
In order to expedite the process, the Ministry of Finance sent a letter to the President of the Eurogroup on 5th March 2015 urging that the process of technical discussions on specifying further the “first list of reforms” begin immediately. In the same letter the Minister of Finance attached seven examples of how the reforms in the “first list” could be developed and specified further. 
Following a positive reply by the President of the Eurogroup (dated 6th March 2015) and the subsequent Eurogroup meeting of 9th March 2015, the first round of discussions of the Brussels Group (comprising of the four institutions – EC-ECB-ESM-IMF – plus the technical team of the Greek government) took place, in Brussels, on Wednesday 11th March dealing with both political and technical issues. At that meeting it was also decided that technical teams of the institutions would travel to Athens on the following day for on-site fact-finding to assist the Brussels Group negotiations.In the context of the above, I feel it is critical to alert you to a number of developments which are either undermining the spirit of the agreement reached or making their fulfilment perilously difficult.
(a) On 4th February the European Central Bank lifted the waiver for minimum credit rating requirements for marketable instruments issued or guaranteed by the Hellenic Republic, while declaring that the waiver would be restored when an agreement was reached at the level of the Eurogroup. Moreover, even since the Greek banks were referred to the Bank of Greece’s ELA facility, the ECB has been raising the ELA’s ceiling at shorter intervals than normal and at rather small increments that incite speculation and spread uncertainty vis-à-vis Greece’s banking system. Additionally, the ECB determined that Greek banks cannot hold more T-bills than they did on 18th February 2015, thus restricting their participation to well below the T-bill cap. (Please note that, in the summer of 2012, when a new Athens government was in a similar situation to ours, ELA was being expanded generously, the T-bill issuance cap was lifted to allow the government to finance its debt repayments to our creditors, and banks were not restricted to any limit corresponding to a prior date’s holding. In that manner the government of the time and the Eurogroup were granted sufficient ‘space’ to reach an arrangement that allowed the Greek banks to move away from ELA and back to normal ECB financing methods.)  
(b) Following past failures (of the previous government) to complete the scheduled reviews, disbursements under the loan agreements with the ESM-EFSF were discontinued (while those of the IMF were similarly delayed), yielding a substantial financial gap in 2014 and 2015. This includes the profits from the ECB’s SMP-sourced bond redemptions, which the ECB distributes to member states on the understanding that they be passed onto the Greek government.
Given that Greece has no access to money markets, and also in view of the ‘spikes’ in our debt repayment obligations during the Spring and Summer of 2015 (primarily to the IMF), it ought to be clear that the ECB’s special restrictions [see (a) above] when combined with the disbursement delays [see (b) above] would make it impossible for any government to service its debt obligations. Servicing these repayments through internal resources alone would, indeed, lead to a sharp deterioration in the already depressed Greek social economy – a prospect that I will not countenance. 
Meanwhile, I also regret to report that little progress has been made in the negotiations between the technical teams in Brussels and Athens. The reason for the extremely slow progress is that the institutions’ technical teams, as well as some of the actors at a higher level, seem to show little regard for the 20th February Eurogroup agreement and are, instead, committed to proceeding along the lines of the Memorandum of Understanding that pre-dates both the 20th February agreement and 25th January 2015 – the date on which the Greek people elected a new government with a mandate to negotiating the new process established by the 20th February Eurogroup agreement. It is difficult to believe that our partners consider that a successful reform drive can be carried out under such restrictive and pressing constraints, including the financial squeeze that my government is currently labouring under. 
The Greek government remains steadfast in its commitment to fulfil its obligations to its partners within the framework of the 18th February letter and 20th February Eurogroup decision. However, I am also obliged to make clear to you that, in order to continue to fulfil our obligations, as we have done up to now, progress has to be made on a number of fronts:
(a) After 20th February Eurogroup agreement and the approval of the extension of the MFAFA by member states, and given that the technical discussions with the institutions are under way, the ECB should return the terms of finance of the Greek banks to their pre-4th February 2015 state. 
(b) The process by which the reforms proposed by the Greek government, and their evaluation, must be immediately clarified so as to make a successful conclusion of the review by the end of April 2015, as well as to specify the recommencement of disbursements with the progress of the negotiations. 
(c) The process must be specified (as well as the participants and timetable) by which further arrangements (which my government would like to take the form of a ‘Contract for Greece’s Recovery and Development’ – including provisions on Greece’s public debt in the spirit of the November 2012 Eurogroup agreement) will be agreed to before the end of June 2015.
In conclusion, Greece is committed to fulfilling its obligations in good faith and close cooperation with its partners. To this purpose we are committed fully to the process specified in the 20th Eurogroup agreement so as to begin immediately the work of implementing reforms crucial to our economy’s prospects of long term development within an inclusive Europe. With this letter, I am urging you not to allow a small cash flow issue, and a certain ‘institutional inertia’, to not turn into a large problem for Greece and for Europe.

*Letter sent by Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, on 18th Feb 2015, to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs the eurogroup, formally requesting an extension of the existing bailout, something Tsipras had resisted since his government's election. See also Yanis Varoufakis' blog entry for 20th March in which he picks up on the matter of a subversive video circulating on social media. 
Diplomacy in Berlin...

23rd March 2015: The German Chancellor and Prime Minister of Greece appear at 49.50 on this clip...

Friday, 20 March 2015

Work up Bell Hill, Lydbrook

The Rock Cottage restoration project hovered over us for several years. A favourite place reached by walking up a steep path from the middle of Lydbrook, Gloucestershire. The place has been neglected as the children grew older and my parents-in-law found it more and more difficult to climb the narrow path up Bell Hill from the car park below, and Linda and I met Ano Korakiana. Meanwhile, a nice man but, as it turned out, a wholly inadequate builder, subject to excuses about instructions 'lost in translation' made partial improvements which made the place worse. Its neglect hung over us. Then last July, our friends Martin and Sandra met us in Lydbrook. They inspected. Martin wrote later:
Hi both. Glad to hear you're feeling a little better about the task ahead...I must confess I was shocked to see the condition of the Cottage. I always visualise it as it was in May '92 when I did that veranda roof - and I used my motorbike, we lived in Gloucester. It was a glorious summer that year, Sandra would come over in the afternoons (after work) and sunbathe in the back garden. The ride there in the cool mornings, and the ride back with my jacket tied around my waist because it was so hot - ahhh!, happy days indeed. We'll have to see if we can recapture some of that. Martin X 
No builder or decorator could have been expected to achieve what our friends have, treating their work, mainly carried out by their son Adam and two other young men who work for Martin's company - work for which we paid - but also by Martin and Sandra who except for material have worked on the cottage for free. First, back in August of 2014, a pile of building rubbish and rubble left in the overgrown garden was barrowed or carried away. Phil from Lydbrook Stores gave permission for us to place a large skip where the path met the road. Adam and his mate Jack filled it over a weekend. Timber for logs was piled in the garden. Where, already cut, it was stacked under the lean to at the south end of the cottage. Foliage and other pieces of rotting wood were heaped for burning. Then work began on the interior - first the kitchen (transported from Amy's and Guy's home in Birmingham after new building there( and then the bathroom. The old bath was rescued from the garden, re-plumbed and combined with a shower.

Walls were plastered; stonework cleaned up and repointed, and two walls at the north end of the house were dry lined. Lin and I would go down now and then to see the place 'coming along'. Martin sent me conscientious costings for materials and the lad's labour. I'd send needed cash on-line. We downloaded Martin's photos of the work while we were in Greece in September and October.
Last year - Sandra at work in the hall
The hall being dry walled
The hall this Feb
New catches were fitted to the highly unsatisfactory windows installed by the previous builder which allowed them to open where previously they had merely cantilevered. Leaks around the window frames were made up. Martin would light the wood stove helping dry the place out.
"So much of the problem of damp is being caused by condensation" he said, dismissing prolonged discussion about water ingress via roof and walls that would have had us spending lots of unnecessary money with the previous builder.
Martin set the new windows on a trickle opening to make up for their lack of ventilation strips; set central heating to come on now and then when the house was empty. It began to dry out, helped via the tree clearance I'd paid Dave at Evolution Trees to carry out in January 2014. Lin and I had backed this up with substantial lopping and sawing of the garden trees and shrubs we could get to.
This February - just over half a year later, the body of the restoration was complete.
We went to look at carpets at a Birmingham showroom...
Our grandchildren, Oliver and Hannah play as Amy and Lin discuss carpets for Rock Cottage

Early February, Lin, ferrying her mum between hospital consultants, couldn't come with me. I got permission from the HHH committee to borrow the van in return for a full tank of fuel. With strict instructions from Lin, I took her selected carpets to Lydbrook and carried them up the hill where they were fitted in sitting room, and bedrooms, by Dave, locally recommended. He also laid new lino in the bathroom.
Our bedroom - carpeted and cosy 
Dave at work in Rock Cottage sitting room

Looking out across the Lydbrook valley

Of course there's more to be done; not least recovering the garden, especially the lawn where we lay in summers. For now Lin and I need to re-arrange the furniture stacked upstairs, so we have a couple of working bedrooms and furniture for the sitting room where we eat. The kitchen's fine, but needs a washing machine.
While Dave was fitting carpets Oscar and I set out on an old and familiar walk towards the top of Bell Hill. I wondered if the way had changed; a climb among tall beech trees. So, as we haven't for nearly 10 years, we set out - left turn, up a narrow steep track for 20 yards, then sharp right for a 50 yards and a short turn left and up the hill...

Up Bell Hill
Coming to the top of the first slope I could gaze down on the village...

...How this changes with the summer greenery, yet the beech trunks, once coppiced for chair making, are now so elongated, as they reach for the light, you can still see through them to feel the sense of being overhead, ascending towards the high ridge from where it's possible on a clear day to see the Brecon Beacons. A little further I saw the familiar car dump that reminds me Lydbrook is still its slightly scruffy old self rather than being a smart Cotswold Village.

I didn't rise so, but kept on the path round the village side of the hill...

...greeting Nigel Aston and shaking hands - "Not seen you a while" - descending to the Hangerberry Road just above its junction with Lydbrook's long central street. Dave had nearly completed his carpeting. The rooms felt warmer; the bedrooms cosier; the sitting room almost ready for family and friends. I paid Dave. Oscar and I headed happily back 75 miles to Birmingham.
*** *** ***
On our allotment, Gill, our friend, neighbour, and apiarist was inspecting the hive on Thursday to give the colony sugar feed and Apiguard against Varroa mites. A couple of years ago I persuaded her to keep one of her colonies on our plot. The first colony lasted five months but died during the first winter. The second died in February, a year later, after carrying damp into the hive after an early warm spell had brought the bees out foraging the winter bulb sprouts. The third colony Gill introduced was invaded in July 2014 by another colony which, after killing the tenant Queen, took over. These bees seems to have survived the worst of this winter and are, says Gill, the strongest colony yet. They should even give us honey, as well as pollinating across the allotment and beyond.

Oliver and I have continued to enjoy the plot, one day with Dennis and Winnie, who continues her work on the plot. Last week we cleared a mess of rotting wood, shrubs and other combustible rubbish, my first bonfire in years, good dry stuff, creating little smoke; buckets of water to hand ready to douse the flames in a hurry...

...Oliver is planting for the first time, watering and helping move earth...
I've moved the unsightly pile of weed-filled earth that's sat next to the shed for too long, and am making compost bays from pallets...
One more bay to come: compost from bay 2 will turned into the empty bay 3, so that bay 1 can be turned into bay 2.

I'm steadily planting things - winter peas, winter broad beans, onions, garlic, rhubarb, and I couldn't resist a scarlet rose - but the next few months will be critical if this year's growing is to be far better than previous years'. I've pruned the small trees; top-dressed them. Winnie's been creosoting the shed; continuing to place recovered bricks around beds and along paths. Where seeds are sprouting I've put up nets over hoops. The contest with couch grass continues with every visit to the plot.
I'm away soon to Greece - alone. Lin must care for her mother, who's fallen ill, and needs ferrying between different consultants at different Staffordshire hospitals - tests, diagnoses, treatments and more tests....
Hannah with her great grandmother at Staffordshire General
Linda and her mum wrapping presents last Christmas Eve

I've got lots to do in the next week. Winnie and I will stay in touch across the miles using photos to check progress. I really hope we've choked off the worst of the couch grass but it remains a presence for all the stripping out of those cursed winding white rhizomes. I'm hoping that I'll start a parsnip crop, growing them direct. but also to ensure germinated parsnip seeds grow straight and do not divide, I've sought advice and been told to plant them in tubes. I didn't have any round cardboard tubes to hand, so made cardboard triangle tubes, stapling the open edges. I filled them with damp compost, then Linda, to a background of 'Gardeners' Question Time' on the BBC, used tweezers to pick up the seeds that were showing little roots. I'd germinated the seeds on a damp kitchen towel over the last 10 days. She put two seedlings into a small indentation in the compost in each tube and put soil gently over them. If I get sprouting seedlings I'll thin them down to one per tube and then use a crowbar to make a hole in the bed I have ready for them on the allotment, and slide the tubes into the ground with no cardboard showing. If this works then I'll make up more tubes. Once in the ground I'll cover them with veggiemesh and over that, for a few weeks, lay a covering of fleece. Now all depends on Tyche Τύχη, the blind mistress of Fortune, protecting the young parsnips from Sod's Law, holding s sheaf with a sandalled foot on the shoulders of a suppliant farmer...
Τύχη είναι η υποτιθέμενη «δύναμη» που αποδίδεται σε έμψυχα ή άψυχα αντικείμενα και η οποία είναι σε θέση να επηρεάσει, πέρα από τον έλεγχο του ανθρώπου και τους φυσικούς νόμους του σύμπαντος, γεγονότα και καταστάσεις ώστε να έχουν θετική κατάληξη. Στην αρχαιότητα η τύχη ήταν θεά, κόρη του Ερμή και της Αφροδίτης, και λατρευόταν από τους αρχαίους έλληνες ως προστάτιδα των πόλεων. 
A gauge of my ignorance. I thought the little white tentacles emerging from the germinated seeds were growing upwards - stems rising with the seed earthward. I had to wait a few days and look closer to see these were stems rooting in the damp tissue carrying the seed skywards. Can it be that some of these tiny fragile things will become the delectable parsnips we may enjoy next Christmas?
Germinating parsnip seeds

*** *** ***
Birmingham's Lord Mayor Shafique Shah has to be outside party politics, but representing an inner city ward, he was well aware of the issues HHH volunteers discussed over biscuits, tea and coffee in the Council House last Tuesday morning. Thanks to our ward councillors for arranging this, especially to Cllr Waseem Zaffar MBE, with us for our hour with the Lord Mayor. A useful meeting and for all the civility and pleasant ritual (HHH got a certificate!) not idle chat.
Coffee, tea and biscuits in the Lord Mayor's Parlour

Cllr Waseem Zaffar MBE, Charles Bates, Jan Horn, Lord Mayor Shafique Shah, Mike Tye, Linda Baddeley, Simon B, Denise Forsyth, Nick Jolliffe
Working in Cornwall Road - another 'Skip-it Don't Tip-it' day - tea, courtesy of a resident

...and the next day Denise and I were working with a family to clear rubbish, including a collapsed rotting sofa, left by the previous tenant.

Kinopiastes - Κυνοπιάστες - is Ano Korakiana's sister village south of Corfu Town. Courtesy of John's Corfu World blog I've come across a film - 50 minutes - showing one of the best depictions I've seen of Corfiot rural life in 1970-71. Praise to Kinopiastes in Corfu and to the film-maker David Shaw-Smith, his family and Greek colleagues. This is the finest documentary I've ever seen of a pastoral economy still at work 45 years ago. At 36.21 I see a working threshing-floor (aloni, τ' αλώνι), horses used to loosen the chaff from the grain. My friend Jim Potts wrote a few years back...
" objective, physical structure and space, but also as a potent literary, cultural and folkloric symbol throughout Greek history, literature and folk-song, from ancient times, until the present day. It's sad to see many threshing floors abandoned nowadays, their surrounding walls crumbling, their beauty and function almost forgotten. As people start to go back to the land, maybe some, at least, will be restored. Will the circle be unbroken?" 
I enjoy the way the Greek commentary mingles with the children's English. Watching it, for all my realism about the back breaking labour of working the land, I ache for what's been lost by modernisation and its effect on the life of villages everywhere. 

This coming Sunday evening, at 19.00, there's a meeting in Kinopiastes Philharmonic Hall to consider rural revitalisation, including the revival of rural housing....
Η αναζωογόνηση της υπαίθρου
Μια εκδήλωση - συζήτηση με ευρύτερο ενδιαφέρον πραγματοποιείται την Κυριακή 22 Μαρτίου  και ώρα 7.00 το απόγευμα στους Κυνοπιάστες, σε συνεργασία με το Κέντρο UNESCO Ιονίου. Αφορά στο πρόβλημα της εγκατάλειψης της υπαίθρου και στην αναζωογόννηση των χωριών μας.
My translation: An event - exploring a matter of widest interest - will take place on Sunday, March 22 at 7.00 pm in Kinopiastes, in collaboration with the Centre for Ionian UNESCO. It concerns the problem of the rural exodus and the revitalisation of our villages.
The fast passing pastoral economy was fixed in a series of marble reliefs by Ano Korakiana's laic sculptor Aristeidis Metallinos who died in 1987.

Rapid changes in the countryside, in the rural economy,figured over and over in my stepfather's broadcasts.
"The past is passing away in the English countryside at a rapidly accelerating speed. The change is amazing"
In the mid 1980s Jack Hargreaves uses a visit to a farm sale, where a family that's lived in the same place for centuries is leaving their farm, selling their home to a market in which such places now change hands, on average, every seven years; selling off their agricultural equipment - old and new - to buyers who want them for museums, as garden and pub decoration...
Jack Hargreaves - farm sale 1 from Simon Baddeley on Vimeo.
Out of Town has preoccupied me these last few years. In spring 2012 I found the unruly archive of film and tape at South West Film and Television Archivebrought it back to a lock-up in Birmingham; struggled with the task of getting 16mm film and 1/4 reel-to-reel sound tape matched up. Charles Webster at one of our lunches at Seafresh sketched an outline.  'Jack loved Dickens' I said "Call the project 'restored to life'  - as in A Tale of Two Cities"
Charles Webster's note
A freelancer, Francis Neimczykand then late last year got the offer from Chris Perry to do a deal - letting the new local TV company, Big Centre TV, show existing episodes of Out of Town in return for having the post-production company Deluxe Soho digitise the archive material and Big Centre's editor, Sean Anthony Lee, synchronise and edit this material so that it too can be broadcast.
With Sean, 'my' Big Centre TV editor, at Walsall Studio School on 11th March

One other element of this risky quid pro quo is a 10 second commercial after each broadcast of 'Out of Town' for the Delta box-sets that my friend Charles Webster helped bring to the market..
My son came with me to interview Mike Prince at the formal opening of Big Centre TV on 6th Feb 2015

So now I sit at the kitchen table - 10.30-11.00 these last four Monday and Friday mornings monitoring my stepfather's broadcasts, transmission quality, on TV and on-line, aiming to ensure the commercials are shown, and that no more than 50% of the episodes in each box set will be broadcast (so no-one can download what others have bought). The event that I await is the first broadcast - so far unprecedented - of one of the reconstituted tape-film matches from the archive.
Oscar's got fleas and I'm watching 'Out of Town' on Big Centre TV
*** *** ***
"Cunning is, in fact, integral to Greek integrity, hence the disfavour it incurs from Anglo- and Teutonic mindsets" writes my friend Richard from Corfu. Greece is playing the game of her life, and how she plays the game despite holding a folding hand, will determine the history of the coming future. Being geographically small, Greece and Greeks value the classical merit of cunning - the talent of metis* referring in Greek to wisdom or craft or nous, and to the goddess of wisdom and prudence - η Μήτις. Cunning in Hellenic culture stands higher than it does in ours (tho' Greeks have seen perfidious Albion as a mirror). We are more wary of cunning. It can be ruefully respected, but also detested - no part of our understanding of integrity. Of necessity it's different in Greece. Richard Pine, in his latest op-ed for The Irish Times, written from Perithia, speaks of Yanis Varoufakis Γιάνης Βαρουφάκης.
Varoufakis plays consummate Cretan 
hand with EU ministers

A caricature depicts Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras  and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the traditional rosemonday carnival parade in the western German city of Duesseldorf. Photogaraph. AFP/Getty Images
A caricature depicts Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the traditional rosemonday carnival parade in the western German city of Duesseldorf. Photograph. AFP/Getty Images
I am very pleased that Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Greece’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, took my advice about the need for compromise. The two most entrenched hardliners in Europe – on either end of whatever spectrum you choose – moved together as if orchestrated by newspaper columnists, with Nobel laureate Paul Krugman the chief puppeteer. 
Nevertheless, a kissy-kissy scenario and swapping family photos isn’t on the agenda yet. Behind whatever smiles they can manage for the photo opportunities, Merkel would dearly love to cut off Tsipras’s feet at the shoulders.
If it were not for a growing sense in southern Europe that the underdogs may still be able to snarl a bit, many in the north (and Ireland) would have no hesitation in killing Greece – or at least the Greece led by Syriza which, Charlie Hebdo says, is “the future of Europe”.
It seemed at one point that the palpable sympathy of most Europeans for the Greek plight would not translate into votes, with several around the euro table determined not to let heart rule head when it came to getting re-elected.
As Krugman has pointed out, austerity policies, which the International Monetary Fund admits were ill-founded, caused such a shrinkage in the Greek economy as to jeopardise any possibility of recovery. 
Tsipras knows his government is on sale or return. Crying “Wolf!” is no use, if his election promises (of a new vision of the Greek future) are outperformed and negated by the realpolitik of Brussels and Berlin, and his 20-20 vision is severely impaired. He may well accept by now that, as former governor of New York Mario Cuomo put it, you campaign in poetry but govern in prose. If Tsipras had capitulated to Brussels and Berlin he would be facing another election before the end of this year. And that is still on the cards.
Speaking of cards, Greece’s finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who taught game theory at Athens University, denies he has been bluffing. “Nothing is farther from the truth,” he said on the eve of the crucial meeting of EU finance ministers. But Varoufakis comes from a Cretan family, and it was a Cretan who famously said: “All Cretans are liars.” If he was speaking the truth he was lying, and if he was lying he was speaking the truth. 
Poker wasn’t around when this was first mooted in 600 BC, but when Varoufakis says “It would be pure folly to think of the negotiations as a bargaining game to be won or lost via bluffing”, he was in fact saying the opposite. And that is how he won the last round of talks. 
When he insisted there was “a red line beyond which logic and duty prevent us from going”, he wasn’t merely stating Syriza’s ideological bottom line: he was also admitting that although the cards in his hand couldn’t beat a royal flush they could force his euro zone colleagues to show their hand. This he achieved, and they respected him enough to let him into the next round of the game. 
Of course Varoufakis was playing the game of his life. Everything in his manner – dress code, body language, approach and withdrawal from the table – proved him the consummate Cretan. And he got what he wanted – what he knew he could achieve, without overplaying his hand. To sit as a neophyte at that table with the big boys (including a scornful Michael Noonan) was to play the Cincinnati Kid against Edward G Robinson, but this time he won. 
To change the analogy, if an Indian army officer couldn’t pay his mess bills, his fellow officers gave him a revolver and told him to do “the honourable thing”. Tsipras and Varoufakis walked out of their meetings with their fellow officers, holding the gun but with no intention of doing anything honourable other than abiding by as many of their election promises they knew they could afford to keep. 
Tsipras returned home cautiously claiming: “We won the battle, not the war. The difficulties lie ahead of us.” Influential figures such as the German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble are not helping anyone by suggesting Greece won’t be able to deliver on the essential reforms. The simple fact, as Krugman repeatedly emphasises, is that if Greece cannot pay all its debts there’s no future in insisting it should do so. 
Noonan, too, doesn’t help when he so clearly relishes his rehabilitation on the good-boy side of the table, adopting an unseemly attitude to Varoufakis, comparing him to a “celebrity economist, good in theory but not very good in practice”. I think Varoufakis will prove to be a better player than Noonan. The next game could be Russian roulette. Smiles don’t cost anything but they don’t come cheap. Handshakes and hugs, as we know from Northern Ireland, take a little time.
* My footnote: Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant published a book in 1978 called Les ruses de l’intelligence: la mètis des Grecs, translated in 1991 as Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society.
...There is no doubt that mêtis is a type of intelligence and of thought, a way of knowing; it implies a complex but very coherent body of mental attitudes and intellectual behaviour which combine flair, wisdom, forethought, subtlety of mind, deception, resourcefulness, vigilance, opportunism, various skills, and experience acquired over the years. It is applied to situations which are transient, shifting, disconcerting and ambiguous, situations which do not lend themselves to precise measurement, exact calculation or rigorous logic.. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

'Though inland far we be...'

My grandson and I have been working the allotment

"Here’s a thing, Oliver. Suppose I get this allotment producing a regular supply of vegetables. Suppose I sort out my confusion about whether this is a serious exercise in producing healthy and tasty food, if not cheap; that this is not an allotment in the old sense – the means by which a working man may feed his family including you – but a hobby, a leisure activity that maintains my mental health and physical shape. Suppose I sort all that out by spending money on soil improvement and paying Winnie to help work the plot with me, there’s yet another challenge. What do I do with what I grow. Does your nan cook it? All of it? Do I give it away? Some of it? How do I grow and supply what I grow in a way that gets things to the table in the right way, instead of producing gluts. As well as growing things - my main purpose - do I have to master the art of storing things? Preserving fruit and pickling veg? That’s a whole other aspect of the project, requiring crafts as tricky to learn to do well as those I’m ever so slowly learning about cultivation. What do you think? While you're thinking about this put some more water in the kettle"
  • Nick Booth "can you grow ice cream?
    19 hrs · Unlike · 2
  • Mickey Lowe My God what a lucky little tyke that is to be with you and learning all the time! Bless ya both !!
    19 hrs · Like
  • Mickey Lowe Any extras you grow could surely go to any food bank or homeless shelter!! 
    19 hrs · Like
  • Tony Jacks Excuse the language Simon, but that is an awful lot of bloody thinking.
    19 hrs · Like
  • Simon Baddeley Of course. Just insert the liquid and the ice crystals grow in it
    19 hrs · Like · 1
  • Ann Marie Gallagher There is a super project called the Real Junk Food Cafe - cook up surplus food - Payl pay as u feel - or u could give to a local place of welcome ?
    19 hrs · Unlike · 1
  • Simon Baddeley A friend has just sent me a message...'Re your allotment quandaries ... I'd been going for a while before i got the hang of preserving. I have to say that its one of the things that is most exhausting. After working at the allotment i drag the produce home and have to start working again to prepare it for the freezer/pickling/chutneying etc. It adds a whole other level. And it makes giving stuff away even more joyful at the time of inevitable gluts - you will not be able to avoid gluts.There are plenty of books about preserving.' But why not just go to Fortnums or Harrods' Food Hall next time in London. It's cheaper in the end. Apple and Mint Chutney £4.95 a jar. Off my allotment the same would cost nothing in materials and around £150 in labour (:))...and you want me to give that away to the poor?
    19 hrs · Edited · Like
  • Sue Tsirigoti Your friend is right! we are sooo lucky not to be in a "needs must" time.. well not much anyway. There is a great deal of pleasure in growing and eating ones own produce and the sad thing is at the time you havea glut so does everyone else too! Well here at least where we all have gardens of varying sizes. Even the effort of harvesting and blanching ready for the freezer is so too much for me once summer season has started. I remember my mother salting beans because we of course didnt have freezers. I would have to buy a new freezer to accommodate all our produce and even then we would be struggling to eeat it all before the next crop next year. At least some of it oes to the chickens which continue with the circle f life and turn it into eggs and chicken soup, or Kokoros pastistada. It is the eternal question isnt it?
    18 hrs · Unlike · 2
  • Zena Phillips I was lucky. It was my own garden so it included fruit trees and soft fruits. All my surplus requirements went to the village shop. We split the proceeds half and half. Sometimes there were people waiting for me to arrive because they knew stuff had been harvested a maximum of half an hour before I got there. I never made a fortune but it covered next year's seeds and needs.
    18 hrs · Unlike · 3
  • Andy Mabbett That looks like a proper shed.
    15 hrs · Unlike · 1
  • Simon Baddeley Got in on freecycle. Had to cut two panels in half to get them in the van! I recovered the roof, added the veranda and rain gutters and downpipes. Got the slabs after a neighbour's front-yard make-over.
    13 hrs · Like · 3 · Remove Preview
  • Poppy Brady Are you sure you haven't tied Oliver to that chair?! And who sits on the chairs on the tables?
    11 hrs · Unlike · 1
  • Simon Baddeley How else can I get anyone to listen to me (:))
    11 hrs · Like · 3
  • Paul McGovern I think you should let Oliver take over and take up fishing x
    4 hrs · Unlike · 1
  • Maureen Carter I keep a log of the produce i use and give away for every year and the chutneys i produce and its quite amazing how much you do produce. It takes a few extra minutes daily but you can then see what was productive to grow and what wasnt worth the effort but it does at the end of the day , depends on the weather. I this winter didnt grow enough winter greens but it is a very big learning curve. The neighbours quite happily look after my plot when i go away as they pick and use the produce !
    1 hr · Unlike · 1
I've invested in topsoil and compost; dropped off in builder's bags from the lane at the top of my allotment. When needed Ollie and I barrow it down to the bed we're working on.
We passed Vanley on the way down to Plot 14 yesterday. I haven't seen him for a while. Oliver strolled on with Oscar on his lead. I reflected on my hopes and cares for the plot.
"The paths are much wider"
"Yes. And when you want you can always make your beds larger and thin the paths again"
"This March is going to be important. That's when I'll do a lot of planting, now I've done more weeding and digging over and added in more compost and top-soil...but both plots on either side of me have been abandoned"
"They may turn up when the weather gets better"
"Yes but I wish I had plots next to me that were thriving. There are so many plots that people have given up on after covering them with bits of wood and plastic and....someone came for three weekends in August last year and then disappeared. That other covered the plot with polythene last November but hasn't checked in since. I keep putting her weed suppressor back in place but the wind is always..."
"Allotments are a metaphor for life"
Oliver, Winnie and her son, Dennis

Dennis and Oliver moving earth

There have been big winds rising. How they gust across this dishevelled site, showing scant respect for structures not well secured, tattering plastic covers, blowing over poly-tunnels...

...shifting one greenhouse onto a neighbour's plot; getting under people's weed suppressing fabric; blowing it around until it's in shreds. On Plot 14 everything's tied, pegged or weighted down.
The bottom bed was collecting water, producing lots of mud. To get it workable I dug a trench at its end. Oliver and I filled it with rubble. Splash! Splash!

I barrowed the earth I'd shovelled out to the top of the plot; brought back lighter topsoil and good compost to mix in the earth I'd forked over and weeded yet again.

After removing its fabric, I covered the fly-tipped bed-frame I dragged to the site yesterday with insect netting - Veggiemesh - using my gun tacker.

On a nearby bed I've planted parsnip seeds. I've done this twice without success, so here goes again but with more compost and bed preparing. I bought a resistant strain of seeds. Archer.  Have I done this right? I'm already thinking I should have waited for warmer weather despite the Feb plant packet advice. Perhaps as a safeguard I should try germinating the parsnip seeds I've got left on a damp kitchen towel in the conservatory.
As it is I checked instructions on depth and spacing - but I wonder how much to trust the retailer's instructions. I semi-sprinkled the small disc-like seeds along rows. The instructions - read in several places as well as from the packet  - say that parsnips dislike transplanting, so these are not to be cultivated in my frame-covered seedbed then moved. What I should expect to do is to thin the sprouted plants and expect to harvest something around Christmas or beyond. I'm slowly realising that there's no substitute I've found for the time it takes to make judgements based on experience I've only just begun to acquire.
The plot now- this bed ready for potatoes
The plot 3 years ago

Starting on a shed from Simon Baddeley on Vimeo - 2010

I've finally found a book on gardening that I like. I was told about it by Barry on Facebook - a veteran pro gardener....
 'Simon. Look for a book called “ Gardeners Earth“ by Dr Stanley Whitehead. I had a copy for horti exams I had to do yearsssss ago. I managed to “keep“ it LOL'
**** **** ****
Even so we miss beloved memory Easter Sunday five years ago...a lamb roast at Mark's and Sally’s. At one in the afternoon, having been up until nearly four the same morning enjoying food – singing and conversation with our dear neighbours, we strolled down Democracy Street. The spitted lamb was turning over a bed of charcoal. Our assembly came from most parts of the UK, some long inhabitants of the island – citizens - others like us still new and some visitors, one in Corfu for the first time. Angie and Martin we’d met before but I learned they knew Richard Hill’s part of the world, and indeed, when I mentioned his address, knew his street. I explained Richard’s craft and the finely re-carved roach I was so looking forward to holding in my hands in May. We came onto Pompey and the writer Graham Hurley who’s given me so much pleasure.

The view from the balcony - greenery to the blue Kerkyra sea and the mainland mountains in their distant detail, while behind us the three crags, on one of which some lads had raised a flag – not the patrida, because it was red and yellow, but we couldn’t make out the pattern. “Could ever a village be better placed?” Swallows darted among the houses. Our company spread across two tables on the balcony; smoke from the roasting lamb full of rosemary rising upwards; cheerful conversation. We ate olive-oiled pitta bread from a barbeque, helping ourselves from dishes of pasta mixed with glazed carrots and sausages; dressed salad; small roasted fowl to be eaten delicately. “This is just the first course" reminded Sally. There was wine, which could be diluted with ice and sipped for hours; also beer and water. Then the lamb – I honoured with half the head. “I’ve never seen anyone trying to eat a lamb’s head with a knife and fork”. True the only way to tease the meat from a skull is to pick it up and feed in the old way.
EASTER LAMB ROAST IN ANO KORAKIANA from Simon Baddeley on Vimeo.
But Angela Papageorgiou in Corfu shares this picture, tagged : "What was that about wishing you were here"?
Southerly gale on the Old Fort, Ormos Garitsas  ~ Friday 6th March

**** **** ****
Catching the 9.10 train to London is altogether a fussier business than the purposeful 7.30 that goes non-stop to London and is full of serious commuters. This is my second visit to London carrying films and tapes from the Out of Town archive for the first stage of turning them into broadcasts.
Leaving New Street for Euston

It doesn’t help that I’m carting an unwieldy old suitcase weighing over 20 kilos containing eleven episodes of ‘Out of Town’ – rusty film cans of 16mm location film with, cello-taped to them, my stepfather’s commentary as recorded in his studio ‘shed’ at the time of broadcast – over forty years ago. I needed a taxi to New Street. It didn’t arrive quite on time. The traffic after eight was heavy – parents to school, commuters into the city centre – congestion I’d slide by on my bicycle, but for this freighted journey I’m a penguin ashore. Desultory chat with the young driver; peering at my watch. I got a receipt at the drop-off.
“Keep receipts” says Lin “If you ever make any money from this I’ll need it for your tax return”
At New Street it’s a literal drag from the drop-off to the platform. A Virgin platform helper consulted his tablet.
“The 9.10 is coming in the wrong way round. Your coach will be up that way”
The platform was crowded. Travellers for Coventry and International. My train arrived. I trudged towards Coach D. My guide was swiftly behind me, grabbed the hefty case to the right door and heaved it on board for me.
By Coventry I was in an almost empty carriage. At Euston I’ll hope to find a trolley and another taxi to Deluxe Soho.
Dear Mark. As arranged I expect to be with Deluxe Soho around 11.00 this Wednesday morning with a second batch of ‘Out of Town’ film and tapes. Looking forward to seeing you again. I shall come to Mearde Street. Best wishes, Simon 
Morning Simon. I'm actually in meetings, so please ask for my colleague Graham Jones, who will make you a nice cup of tea upon arrival. I will hopefully see you a bit later. All the best, Mark 
I have taken up Christopher Perry’s offer. We’ve signed a witnessed contract. Big Centre TV on air in Birmingham and the Black Country Saturday Feb 28th  - will pay for processing the films and tapes in the archive I’ve been looking after these last few years, in return for being able to broadcast some of them.
At Deluxe Soho with eleven film-tape pairs for digitising
This deal includes showing episodes from the Delta box-sets that contain over fifty complete easily broadcastable episodes of Out of Town. This gives us time for the old archive film to be digitised in London by Deluxe Soho and brought to Walsall Studio School for the key work of turning it into broadcasts – a process that requires film and sound to be synchronised, titles and credits to be inserted along with the Southern Television logo at start and finish, and - probably the biggest challenge - editing decisions made about what do with the sequences of Jack’s commentary where we have his voice but no picture. We’ll almost certainly remove him talking about an unseen object on the table in his studio ‘shed’ hoping to create sensible transitions from his commentary in the ‘shed’ to the location film. I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of chat on Facebook – nearly 900 members now – about what images to insert in the ‘shed’ sequences; stills from the episode itself, silent moving film from the episode, portraits of Jack – stills and moving. One helpful adviser even dubbed my stepfather’s imageless commentary onto a sequence clipped from a different episode where the studio is shown. It fooled a few people including me until after a few seconds I spotted the subterfuge.
From Euston where I had further help - a trolley for the hefty case from the platform to concourse and a station uniform to guide me to the lift that took us down to a taxi. The taxi took me to the centre of Soho, to Meard Street, where I lugged the case into Marie Fieldman's workroom at Deluxe Soho.
With Marie Fieldman starting work on the next Out of Town batch

After a coffee I picked up my pleasingly light suitcase and started walking north. I bought delectable lox and cream cheese bagel to eat in Soho Square......
...walking north towards Euston Road and the mainline station.
Euston Road - a phone booth in old London town

On Monday 2nd March, 10.30-11.00am, Big Centre TV broadcast a half-hour episode of Out of Town. The next episode goes out same time on Friday, and thereafter at same time on Mondays and Fridays. I'm keeping careful tabs on what's shown - the deal being to show only 50% of the contents of each of the two box sets. That gives us just under 15 weeks before we go on to do the trickiest and most interesting broadcasts - the archive material I've been taking to Deluxe Soho. Now I'm more familiar with the people at Deluxe Soho, I've asked Chris Perry to get me together with editors at Walsall Studio School - the people or person who'll be synchronising and editing the digitised material sent up from London.
Dear Chris. Not sure if we were clear on the advertising of Out of Town on Big Centre TV. I saw the announcement of future episodes being shown Monday and Friday mornings, but we agreed there would be, at the end of each episode of Out of Town (as you suggested and we agreed), showing a 10 second commercial for the Delta Box sets with a link to Delta’s website for OOT.
I have told Delta this would be happening so I could check with them the effect of that publicity. Sales of the box sets pay me the royalties I need for storing the archive and expenses associated with the restoration of the archive, the main part of which Big Centre TV will be covering once we arrive at broadcast quality episodes from the archive.
I anticipate you have about 15 more weeks drawing on the existing box set material. If all goes well the first of the recovered archive episodes should be ready to broadcast in the first week of June. These will be unique, not seen since first broadcast in the 1970s.
Remembering I will be out of the UK, the sooner I can get together with a Studio School editor with digitised material to hand the better. It may help that I have three such episodes already processed by Francis Niemczyk. Best wishes, Simon
Email from Chris:
Hi Simon. As soon as we take some delivery of files, I can fix you up with an editor. I planned to give Steve until end of week and then chase him at Deluxe. I have fixed the caption issue - playout server couldn't see it.  c

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