Friday, 14 April 2017

Πάσχα στην Άνω Κορακιάνα - Good Friday

Pietro Lorenzetti Christ's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday 

It’s Good Friday. What a waste it would be, if people like me, without faith in resurrection, miracles or virgin birth, might be tempted to throw out such an accurate demonstration of human nature; even turning away from witnessing the same population who provided a cheering procession last Sunday as Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on a peaceful donkey, but became, within a week, victim of a blood drenched lynching, incited by a religious hierarchy panicked, in their high offices, by the breach of small regulations; an uneasy imperial governor who for political expediency makes the killing of an innocent man official, ignoring his wife's pleas, and lending wood, nails and executioners; of a dear friend whose uncomprehending disappointment turns to anger and impulsive betrayal, and another, who’s resolution faltered when faced with torchlit darkness, armed soldiery and the dreadful smells and sounds of torture. Caiaphas, Pilate, Judas, Peter. There are many bit parts. Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross part of the way up to Golgotha; Veronica who lent her veil to wipe Jesus’ face; two thieves walking to the same death. Many witnesses.
Andrea di Bartolo Way to Calvary
** ** ** **
It's not that I take Greece for granted now we've been regularly at home here these ten years. Not for a moment. It's that some of the fervent, and to Lin, I suspect, feelings that would overtake me when I touched on Greek ground and heard Greek spoken and saw it written, are not so impulsively expressed. I was in love - am still in love - with this place, but now it's more like an extended friendship. Companionship. I'm at ease here.
Hannah and Oliver on the walls of Kassiopi castle
I hoover the floor. I know the details of dust, the mould on the plaka, the dry shed leaves I sweep from our small garden. I love hanging washing that dries in hours, seeing it blowing in the warm breezes that waft between the village and the mountains; remembering to feed the cats where they've left their shit - after I've washed it away - so we won't tread in it as we go up and down the steps to Democracy Street, whose blemishes I know in my sleep. I change the broken bulb in the municipal light that hangs off a bracket on the side of the house, helping us in and out at night. In the morning the piss-pots emptied on the compost of greenery and dried weeds along with peelings from potatoes and carrots. In the grandchildren's case I enjoy reminding Oliver, as I empty his, that only male wee works on compost. One day Hannah will challenge me on this. Oliver's learning the difference between 'bitch' as a rude word and the description of a 'lady dog'. I don't want him getting into trouble with teachers, but nor do I want him town-ignorant. Five days ago swallows began returning to Ano Korakiana.
There was a problem with our water supply. Strong as usual outside; a dribble indoors. I needed to replace the pressure regulator that moderated the high pressure supply to the village. Bought from a plumber by Sgombou, the new kit wasn't too tricky to fit in place of the old one, blocked and rusted, unwilling to loosen up when tapped with a hammer.

Fiddlier was mending the sink drain inside a cupboard in the utility room. Woeking on bended knees is harder work these days, as I explain to Oliver, watching with pleasing interest.
"Turn on the tap....wili it leak? Yes? No! It's OK. I'll tidy things up later"
Mending the sink drain u-bend in the utility room

...nnd Lin's already resealed a gap that's opened up between the stove and its lid, using thermal filler and sealing rope. 
On Good Friday afternoon we drove to a stretch of empty shore at Sidari, treading on warm cushions of dry seaweed, sat on the jetty.

Friday, 10 March 2017

'A fortnight ago things changed...'

A summer meet of the Friends of Black Patch Park outside the Soho Foundry Tavern
.... for Black Patch Park and its friends. It was not as if The Friends haven't left a lobbying trail since we founded ourselves 13 years ago. But last year - 16th March 2016 - we met the late Darren Cooper when he was the Leader of Sandwell MBC. Unofficially he assured us that things must change. We had prepared a draft report on the case for bringing back housing along the edges of the Black Patch, arguing that only by having people who opened their windows and doors onto the park was there a hope of restoring and maintaining it.
In the meantime the park became more and more ravaged by fly-tipping - with the worst we'd ever seen hitting even the national press at the end of February. Given the amplifying repetitiousness of these problems I didn't hold out much hope for the meeting we'd sought with the new Leader of the Council several weeks earlier. Phil Crumpton and I had sat in the middle of a wrecked space venting - feeling our hopes were futile, wasted.
Three years ago we'd designed a visitor's trail for the Black Patch - 'striving to renew a place' 
In February last year we'd written about 'bringing people back to the Black Patch'
Leader's Office - Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council 23 Feb 2017
L-R Simon B, Andrew Simon, Phil Crumpton (FoBPP), Cllr Richard Marshall, Cabinet member for Leisure, Cllr Steve Eling, Leader of Sandwell MBC, Ajman Ali, Interim Director, Neighbourhood Strategy, Sandwell, 
Ash Barker and Harjinder Jheet (FoBPP)  (photo: Max Cookson, Transport & Waste Operations Manager)

At the meeting between Cllr Steve Eling, Leader of Sandwell MBC and the Friends of Black Patch Park on 23 Feb 2017, Cllr Eling said he was impressed at the comprehensiveness of the report that the Friends had produced, recommending that people be brought back to Black Patch Park as the only solution to its neglect and blighting. His Cabinet had walked around the park a few weeks earlier. He had followed our case. He agreed with our plan and its arguments for rezoning the area for new housing around the park and beyond. This, the Leader agreed, was the only way to resolve what he described as the ‘conundrum of the Black Patch’ - a problem created by a prolonged series of failed piece-meal measures; in particular, a repetitive cycle of forced illegal entry, consequent trashing, expensive clearance, inadequate boundary securing and monitoring. “Black Patch” he declared “has been historically disadvantaged by its lack of connectivity. But there’s a new connectivity which changes the fortunes of the Black Patch”. There would be no solution to the ‘Black Patch conundrum’ without a restorative strategy for this part of the Borough.
- Such a strategy must not be implemented piecemeal, since piecemeal actions have brought about the notorious problems of the Black Patch,
- The strategy must reconfigure ‘a new space’ that visibly and physically breaks out of the ‘isolation’ of the park created by transport and former industrial infrastructure – such as railway embankments and the ‘tunnel’ of Queenshead bridge,
- This new space is an answer to the challenge of how to create a sustainable community in the area; bringing new tenants and residents in affordable housing, not only to the borders of the park, but to a wider area, via additional housing along a new hub-walkway linking Black Patch to the Metro station on Handsworth New Road and the neighbourhood of Birmingham’s Soho district.
Note: These are the views of the FoBPP following their meeting at Sandwell Council offices but I received this email y'day:
'Good Afternoon Simon. Both the Leader, Cllr Steve Eling and Cabinet Member for Leisure, Cllr Richard Marshall have agreed that your draft notes are an acceptable account of the meeting and are happy for them to be in the public domain. If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me. Many Thanks, Jane Perham, PA to The Leader'
The Friends of Black Patch Park - "We can't go on meeting like this!"
Back to the future - 30 March 2017 - and I'm writing on Facebook:
The Friends of Black Patch Park have been allowed a few weeks of optimism, believing after our meeting on 23 Feb 2017 (current group photo on the top of this blog entry) with the Leader of the Council, one of his Cabinet colleagues and officers, that the area around the Park would be rezoned for housing - and the future of the park assured by restoring it as the green centre of 'a community of place'. The words of Cllr Steve Eling, Leader of Sandwell MBC, had been that there must be an end to 'piece-meal' decisions in this area of Smethwick, and a recognition that 'the conditions now exist for a sustainable community of park users in the area; that would finally 'offer a solution' to what he called 'the Black Patch conundrum'. But Sandwell's Cabinet have now referred, to planning committee, a plan for a transit site for Travellers next to the park (Ref: DC/17/60410), and, in so doing, have driven a wedge through Cllr Eling's vision of a sustainable housing plan for the area - one that offered a solution to the decades-long neglect of this area. Neither despair nor resignation are in the vocabulary of the Friends of Black Patch Park. We shall continue to make a case that we, mistakenly, understood had been accepted by the leadership of Sandwell Council. The speed with which the transit site (see map below) between Boulton Road and Foundry Lane has been cleared, suggests that despite the reference in past weeks to alternative sites in the borough, these were, in actuality, given no serious consideration. Now we are being asked to believe that a transit site on a vital part of what ought to be zoned for housing in Cllr Eling's vision, as he shared it with us on 23 Feb, will actually be paid for and used by Travellers, when the tempting space of Black Patch Park, whose security Sandwell MBC and the police have been unable - even unwilling - to protect, is just across the road. The placing of this site, intended as a means by which the council can trigger eviction procedures under Section 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, is more likely to ensure continuation of the 'piece-meal' problems of occupation, trashing and expensive eviction and clearance that have long blighted the Black Patch area.
Plan for a Transit Site next to the Black Patch

Transit site next to Black Patch Park - in the heart of what should be new housing around the park

This is Cllr Steve Eling's 3-page letter to FoBBP member Phil Crumpton seeking to allay fears about the current decision to place a temporary Traveller's Transit site next to the last remaining homes near Black Patch and in the centre of an area that a month before he'd described as the 'sustainable housing area' that would recreate Black Patch Park as a 'community of place'.

Andrew Simons (Hon Sec FoBPP) draft letter of objection to application DC/17/60410:
I am writing on behalf of the Friends of Black Patch Park in relation to the planning application (DC/17/60410) for a temporary traveller transit site at the corner of Boulton Road and Foundry Lane, Black Patch, Smethwick B66 2LS. The Friends wish to object to the planning application on several grounds. 
1. The planning application is in contravention of planning policy guidance for traveller sites as set out by the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2015 (Planning policy for traveller sites, DCLG, August 2015). In particular, we wish to draw your attention to the following:
a) There has been no community engagement with either the settled or traveller communities with regards to the proposed transit site. For example, there has been no consultation with residents of Murdock and Avery Roads which are immediately next to the proposed site, or the residents on other adjoining streets such as Perrott Street, Eva Road, Foundry Road, Queens Head Road etc.
b) There is little or no evidence of SMBC having worked collaboratively with neighbouring local planning authorities – even though the proposed site is immediately adjacent to the border with Birmingham – to ensure that the site is sustainable economically, socially and environmentally. Indeed, the proposal appears to be designed with the aim of forcing travellers into neighbouring boroughs.
c) The proposed development takes no account of the existing Local Plans for the Black Patch area, for example, the Smethwick Area Action Plan (2008). It is the view of the Friends that such a transit site would undermine the priority for housing development in the area surrounding Black Patch Park and therefore contribute further to a piecemeal approach that is not sustainable in the long term.
d) There is no evidence that other alternative sites within the borough have been given due consideration to ensure that the best site is chosen. This would include a consideration of the needs of the traveller community as well as the resident community adjacent to such sites and embrace such matters as the access of travellers to adequate education, health and welfare services.
2. The proposed transit site will have a detrimental impact on local amenities and environment for residents living next to the site. This includes resident living immediately adjacent to the site on Murdock and Avery Roads and residents living in the wider area who use Black Patch Park. 
The presumption made by SMBC is that the site will not be used owing to the up-front fee and weekly rent. However, this does not exempt SMBC from following relevant planning law or guidance, and is based on an assumption that may prove incorrect. What if some or all the proposed 34 pitches are taken and there is no plan for managing the development as required by DCLG?  How will this proposal help with the development of a long term sustainable plan for the Black Patch area?
We would request that the Council take our objections into consideration when deciding this application. We would be happy to meet with representatives of SMBC on site to discuss our objections in person.  Yours sincerely etc FoBPP
**** **** ****
Last May I got an email from Gill, the apiarist, who keeps bees on Plot 14.
I now have a nucleus colony which can go to your allotment. They are Buckfast bees, specially bred to be both docile and prolific.
So they were - a source of quiet satisfaction through the seasons, a presence on the plot, peered at carefully now and then; seen individually in flowers on the allotment and beyond. Sometimes I imagined them before I went to sleep.

In September 2016 we had our first honey off the plot. For winter Gill insulated the hive. This February I emailed her
Dear Gill. Do you have any idea how the colony on Plot 14 has weathered the winter? Last year was such a good surprise.  X Simon 
28th Feb: Simon. Unfortunately, it has not survived. Varroa depleted the colony and the cold weather put paid to the rest. I shall be getting another colony in the spring, though. Gill
Winnie and I wonder if the siting of the hive backing onto the to park fence, next to the plot shed, trees and brambles, confines the bees to a space that holds damp. We wonder about moving it to a different place on the plot - possibly a chamber inside the fruit cage open to the sky - placing any new colony in the centre of the plot. Now looking at the hive what I thought was sleep and winter quiet, is an emptied hive. Oliver has been curious about the malign work of the Varroa mite. We sat in the kitchen and I called up an animated youtube clip...
I guess fear adds to my feelings. I hate this 'thing' whose reproductive cycle parallels the bee's; that east its way into the bee's young, sucks their blood, breeds in their chambers, excretes on them, uses the bees to spread - vampires. It's not the insect that does the harm, but the diseases it carries in its parasitic life. I know that Buddhism could calm me, show how all is part of the great cycle, and even Christianity would strive to teach me that 'they know not what they do'. A test of love. Before he went to sleep - staying our house tonight - I said "Sleep tight, don't..." He completed "...let the Varroa bugs bite". 
Varroa destructor on its honeybee host

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

'A friend in a field'

Six years ago I posted some sad pictures I'd been sent of an old boat I'd once sailed - her untidy cabin filled with dirty water, her cockpit invaded by greenery. This was Young Tiger, a 22 foot Westerly built in England 53 years ago, sat in a field in an eastern state of the USA, 40 miles from the nearest sea at Baltimore on the Chesapeake.

On 27th August last year - I got a message from a stranger on my blog via Disqus
Hi, Simon. Did you ever find out what became of Young Tiger after this post? (28 July 2011) Sue is a dear friend, and I'm a young American sailor myself (though in Wales at the moment)... If no one is looking after the boat, I'd love to beg someone to let me buy her. Very best, Whitney
28 Aug 20i6: Dear Whitney...I send you details of the family of the man - John Coyle - who had put Young Tiger on that flatbed trailer hoping - though it sounds an old man’s dream - to sail her off the New England coast. This email address may well be out of date by now. The old man in my record is down as:
John Coyle (son-in-law Sean, daughter Sara) ** Roland Place, N.W.,
Washington, D.C., 20008 USA. Phone:  001 (202) *** ****  owner of Young Tiger, Frederick Maryland. Source of this info: Gordon Gemeny PO Box ***, Dowell, Maryland, 20629, US    It’s all gone a little historical now, but I’d be fascinated to know more, as I am sure would Sue.  Best wishes and good luck, Simon
28 Aug: Dear Simon. I was delighted to hear from you. I’ve sent an email to Sean and Sarah straightaway. I’m in Wales at the moment, but back to the US in early October and quite serious about finding YT if I can. I’m based in South Carolina, but I work in the DC area regularly and expect I might be up that way again in the autumn. I won’t get my hopes up too high, but buying a soggy 1960s boat that would need huge amounts of restoration has really caught my imagination, I confess. I’m a builder of sorts by trade (very good dry-stone waller, sort of rubbishy carpenter, etc), so I hope I could do a bit of it myself.
I was with Sue just last week, and she mentioned you and that very Merry Wives reunion as we drove along the A470 together!
Miriam, Sue and I in London at a 50 year reunion of another adventure ~ 14 Nov 2015
She is an extraordinary woman - one of my very favorites. She and Phil were the first to take me sailing some years ago...
Sue, Phil and Whitney aboard Vicki at Aberaeron
 ...and I’m so grateful to them for it. I’ve gone on to do a few RYA courses since then (currently sitting comfortably at Day Skipper level after a week in St Lucia last February), and I’ve sailed newer, bigger French boats as well as older, creakier wooden boats like a Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter, but it’s the little Westerly I love best. They’re so approachable. Sometime a few years ago Sue and I were sitting on her front lawn having a gin and catching up after I’d returned from my first big sail when suddenly she disappeared into the house for a few minutes with no explanation … She returned holding one of the charts from your voyage. “I found this the other day while I was clearing up,” she said. I can’t recall if it was Barbados or the Grenadines she had in her hands, but we talked for a long time about the sea that afternoon. It was a lovely moment. Wish me luck, and thanks again for the quick response! I’ll let you know if I hear anything back. Very best, Whitney

28th Aug 2016:  Dear Sean and Sarah. Please forgive this email out of the blue. I’m trying to find the whereabouts of a little Westerly 22 called Young Tiger. I think you know Simon Baddeley - at least electronically. His companion on Young Tiger's big Atlantic crossing, Sue Pulford (now Best), is a very dear friend of mine and the reason I began sailing just a few years ago.
Sue Pulford 1966
I linked up with Simon via his blog just a few days ago, and he’s very kindly pointed me to you. I’m sorry to bother, but I thought it might be worth a shot to email you. I hope you don’t mind.
I’m in Wales at the moment, which is where Sue lives and where I’ve trained and still work sometimes as a dry-stone waller, but I’m American. I’m from South Carolina (don’t hold that against me!), but I spend much of the year on the road for work, leaving a trail of beautiful stone wherever I go. I even built on the National Mall earlier this summer as part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, though the bulk of my work is down in the mountains of southwestern Virginia and here in the wild hills of mid-Wales. Here I am, if you’re curious:    Anyway, I’d love to know what’s happened to the boat these last few years. The last photos I saw showed her in quite a sad state. I don’t want to be too forward here since we don’t know each other at all, but I’d be so eager to rescue her if she needed it. I’m 33 and perhaps a bit foolish, but I think she’s quite a special little boat - not to mention quite special to someone I love - and I’m not afraid of a project. Even if she’s found a good home by now, I’d love to know how’s she’s faring out in the world if you have a few minutes to write.
Sue still sails a Westerly 22 after all these years. Vickie, moored in Aberaeron in Cardigan Bay, was the first boat I ever sailed on, and I fell quickly in love. I’ve gone on to sail bigger, newer boats here in Wales and down in St Lucia, gradually working my way up to skipper, but none have ever been as charming as the little Westerly.
Thanks very much for your time. Best wishes, Whitney Brown
Email to Whitney 29 Aug: Hello, This is Sean, the son in law of the John P. Coyle. JPC is the gentleman who owned the Young Tiger before it came to be where it is at now. She is still in the same spot in a field in Adamstown Maryland. It is most likely that she could be had for free to someone willing to take on such a project in ernest. If you are interested, I would be happy to inquire/make arrangements. Let me know .... would love to see her sail and crew with her.  Call or write us, Sean and Sarah 
29th Aug: Simon, can you believe it? More soon. Pleasantly in shock at the moment! Very best, and THANK YOU, Whitney. Sent from my iPhone
29 Aug to Whitney, copied to Susanna Best (Sue Pulford): No I do NOT believe it (:)) After hardly half a week’s checking - that’s almost disappointing - except it’s not! I too am in shock at the continuity in emails in these times of transient addresses. And so good to feel goodwill from Sean. I wonder how YT's fared on her flatbed through those Maryland seasons. I can only imagine YT wanted to be found, old timer that she is. Here are tales to tell of adventure and perhaps more to come. Best, Simon
A friend in a field
23 Jan 2017: Hi Simon. I hope this finds you happy and well. I’m sorry to be out of touch so long. The autumn just seemed to slip away with one thing and another ... And a very nasty election. (I was marching in Washington on Saturday, rest assured)

I’ve just finished an email to Sue updating her on my morning’s adventure, so I thought I’d better check in with you as well. Finally, in horrendous weather, I went to see Young Tiger in her field in rural Maryland. She is just as Sean described her to me in his email: in a bit of a sad state, but not beyond repair. I was disappointed to see that her spars are all rotted, but I do think the hull will be just fine with some TLC. Then there’s the matter of, oh, ALL of the equipment: sails, radio, battery, engine, loo, cooker, lights, etc! It will take me a bit to get sorted so that I can begin the restoration process, but I am keen to do so. I want her to be beautiful again, and while I probably won’t sail her across an ocean, I’d love to get her down to Admiralty Bay in Bequia once more ... Best,
Young Tiger in Admiralty Bay, Bequia 1966

23 Jan 2017: Dear Whitney. We are well and I’m the happier for seeing that striking image of you and Young Tiger. It was easier to see you in the crowd on Independence Avenue, because it was so small compared to the previous day’s inauguration where the crowd was many times larger than at the 'nasty women’s' march. I have access to 'alternative facts’, as will we all for the next few years.
What a really lovely picture. So you traced Young Tiger to a field under autumn trees in Maryland; Denys Rayner’s small boat that looked after us along the coasts of Spain and Africa, the Canaries, the Caribbean Islands, the Bahamas and on the deep ocean between those magic shores.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Sue phoned me, seconds before I opened your email. You have stirred dream memories of an adventure long ago.  Your journey to a field in Maryland seems destined, and you are to windward of us in age, energy and enthusiasm.  I’m not surprised those spruce spas have rotted - through neglect rather than use.  I am excited at your plans for restoration and am sure, as is Sue, that you can make ‘our' little ship whole again. Make her yours. She’s not been properly owned for decades. If you want a rough ground plan of the boat from the original brochure that came with each model including YT, just ask. I have it in my files and can easily get it copied.  All the very best, Simon
So she's 3570 miles away as the crow flies, far further by other means, and - so it feels - in time. Last Wednesday, Whitney and I met in London, and over a long lunch at the Lighterman in Granary Square, ran through what I remembered about the boat she is taking under her capable wings. I gave her a copy of the plans - inside and out of the W22, and ran through the gunter rig, the reasoning behind bilge ballast keels, the evolution of YT's design in the mind of Ben Rayner and the boat's aesthetic, the reason Denys preferred outboard motors, 'Blondie' Hasler's self-steering gear as its inventor had explained it to me, the simplicity of Mary Blewitt's guide to taking noon sights - whch I reckoned W had begun to learn on her Day Skipper course and would hardly need in the days of SatNav. I am inspired by this continuity; not a revisit, a relay. Whitney Brown is a true grafter. I cannot imagine anyone more qualified in character, knowledge and craft to take on the challenge of taking Young Tiger back to the sea where she should be.
Landfall on Barbados - 5 Jan 1966 "Clouds collected during the night, obscuring the bright moon, and at dawn it was blowing hard with rain everywhere and haze ahead. We stared ahead until our eyes ached. Suddenly a break in the cloud let through a sunbeam which shone on the land about 10 miles off - green and incredibly exciting."*

A message on 8th March from me to WB on Facebook:
I am told this was the original Rosie. It's clear you have all the skills and craft and strength to remake YT. My concern is the interaction, over many years, of saltwater, iron, and fibre glass as this may affect the integrity of the keel bolts. Ben Rayner built to Lloyds spec, as you know, which means that he would have wanted heart and soul that no manufacturing blemish would endanger your safety at sea in any boat that came from him. His character gave me cause to sleep sound on stormy nights. The other area (there may be many others you will find) that would concern me, would be the pulpit fixings, but much more important is strength, after 50+ years, of the mast bracket. Rayner intended that the curve of deck and hull provide the strongest resistance to the forces on the rig exerted through that, but recall that the gunter rig has no back-stay, which means either aft shroud will take the unsupported force of the boom in the event of a hard gybe. Oh and while I'm thinking on this, few things are more undignifying for you and your boat than that she become waterlogged or worse because the heads outlet or inlet fail.

*Baddeley, S., A Voyage to America, 1966 Roving Commissions (7) pp. 9–30, London:RCC Press 1967

Back numbers