Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Black Patch Park at the end of summer 2017

The Friends in Black Patch Park - 7th Sept

In the last 18 months things have changed for the Black Patch – not only for the park but for its surrounding streets and small edging areas of land. In mid-2016 the Leader of Sandwell Council said that previous bets – few and far between - on the future of the Black Patch were off. Something serious needed doing for this area at the eastern end of the borough - neglected 30 years; blighted by the dispersal of all but a few of its surrounding residents; by a pragmatic council decision to decommission the park and rezone it for light industry, and by its spreading repute as an expedient place for flytipping. Councillor Darren Cooper declared to us, in his office on 16th March 2016, that things were going to change.
His sudden death, within days of our meeting, did not interrupt that aspiration. Rather, a decision to restore Black Patch Park became part of Darren Cooper’s eulogy, repeated, with detail, at a meeting, on 23rd February 2017, with Sandwell’s new leader, Cllr Steve Eling. “The whole area” he declared from his predecessor’s chair “has been blighted by decades of piecemeal decisions”. Council strategies, having nothing to do with this area of the borough, have nudged the ‘Patch’ into an urban limbo – reminiscent of its status 150 years earlier, when none but the Romany would make a home on 10 feet of industrial embers threaded by two oily brooks beside barren rail embankments.

Cllr Eling spoke of the need to solve the 'Black Patch conundrum’, acknowledging an analysis written and illustrated by the FoBPP, in which we’d made a detailed case for bringing housing and people back to live beside the park. There had, he said, to be, not just disjointed decisions about the park, but, a ‘strategy for the whole area’. He observed, of our report, that its call to rezone the park’s edges for housing, returning people to the area, had at last defined a ‘sustainable community for the Black Patch - one that breaks out of its enclosing rail and metro embankment to spread new residents along, not only Boulton Road, Perrott Street, Kitchener Street, Foundry Lane, Wellington Road, but also along a wedge of land overlooking the Merry Hill allotments, marching 200 yards by walkway, to the Birmingham boundary and Winson Green Outer Circle Metro Stop, reuniting the park with other users along Nineveh, Tew Park and Reynolds Roads, terraces east of Handsworth New Road and more Birmingham residents living on Queens Head Road.

Following that first meeting with Steve Eling, we and many others, witnessed a crescendo of dumping and ground trashing on Black Patch Park; so unscrupulous in scale and variety it reached the national press; a possessive trespass on public space so contrary, that one of several men dismantling a caravan in the centre of the Black Patch asked one of our members, strolling across the park, what he was doing there when ‘they were working’.  Adverse publicity prompted a response from Sandwell typical of the ‘piece-meal’ decisions Steve Eling had blamed for blighting the area. Determined to stop the ‘invasion’ by ‘urban vandals’ of its green spaces, Sandwell MBC, under direction from Cllr Richard Marshall, Cabinet Member for Leisure, allocated £200K to layout a temporary transit site for travellers next to Black Patch Park, a move which, under national legislation, gave a local council powers to enlist police support to evict trespassers from borough parks inside 24 hours. The residents of Avery and Murdock Roads, the only homes in sight of the park suffered the most desultory of consultation before two acres of land between Wellington and Boulton Roads were cleared, hard surfaced and fenced, driving a stake through the sustainable housing area promised a few months earlier by Steve Eling. The latter wrote a long letter to the FoBPP emphasizing that any new policy to bring housing to the area would take time and that the site was there, unless its temporary status was changed, for just three years - the only means in his and his colleagues’ judgment of ensuring a genuine future for the area, preventing further trashing of the park, and reducing an ever-increasing clean-up budget.
The Friends, through these months, while balancing concern over the trashing of the park by travellers, were always mindful that the park was created in the 1900s through the violent eviction by council bailiffs of the only people willing to stay there - the Black Patch Gypsies. A positive to come out of Sandwell’s temporary transit site off Boulton Road, was that the park’s few remaining residents along Avery and Murdock Roads, led by the formidable Jules Manneh, joined up with the Friends. Juls, by common approval, was voted our Vice-Chair at FoBPP’s AGM on 15th August. At almost the same time we gained the support of Ash Barker, who by joining the Friends brings the resources of the Newbigin House ministry in Winson Green and the Newbigin School for Urban Leadership, to the campaign for Black Patch.
The temporary transit site, with the curfew placed on the Cassidy family, has, for the time being, sent travellers to green spaces in adjoining boroughs, giving the Black Patch a breathing space not known for several years. So far two traveller vans are using the site, paying rent for secure space, power and hot and cold water supply. Through late August and early September 2017, Max Cookson, senior operations Manager at Sandwell, has been carrying out a slew of basic maintenance and clearing activities of a kind we’ve not seen in the park; dead and dying trees made safe, litter and major rubble removed, grounds mown -  all in regular conversation with local parties led by Juls, and including local landlords, Midland Heart. For over four months there’s been no trespassing on the Black Patch. An earlier proposal, pressed by council officers and opposed by the Friends, to site an autoclaving factory on a part of the park have been abandoned.
Steve Eling drops in to the stranger's gallery to chat with the FoBPP before Sandwell's Cabinet on 30 Aug

Sandwell’s Cabinet, led by Steve Eling, who we met again on 7th September, will, at their next meeting on 18th October, be putting out for consultation, a ‘schematic’ for the regeneration of the Black Patch area, along the lines we’ve been promoting ever since we succeeded, ten years ago, in persuading the previous leader but one, Cllr Bob Badham, to put a stop to plans to use the Black Patch as a site for light industry.
Leader's office, Sandwell Council House - 7th Sept 2017

Through this extended period one of our key aims has been to restore sport, especially football, to the Black Patch. Steve Eling and Richard Marshall have approved a suggestion that the Friends draw up a ‘master-plan’ for the laying out of Black Patch Park. This will be our continuing work over the next year. The full time scale is, of course, much longer; the journey from piecemeal to strategy, complicated.
As proof of intention Sandwell MBC have promised a temporary portakabin on the park as a base for community meetings, and the early return of sporting activity, and a play-space at the top of Boulton and Murdock Roads for the children of existing residents and, as suggested by Juls Manneh, the children of travellers using the adjacent transit site if they want it.
Juls Manneh, and Oscar dog, in Black Patch Park
All involved, whether in the council its partners or among the FoBPP, remain acutely aware of the historic context; of the site across Foundry Lane, opposite the park, of the mothballed remains of James Watt’s Soho Foundry in the grounds of the W & T Avery factory, the association of the park with the Black Patch Gypsies, now memorialised at St Mary’s Church Handsworth, of their link with the reputed birthplace of the great Charlie Chaplin whose mother Hannah Chaplin, long ago found refuge in a vardo on the Patch, as believed highly likely by our patron, Chaplin’s son, Michael.
26 July 2015 - Michael Chaplin, our patron, in Black Patch Park, with Simon, Oscar, and historian Ted Rudge (photo:© Michael Scott)





*** *** *** ***
Have I got this – sort of - right? Three visions for ‘Brexit’ [How the referendum result looked to me last June].
1. A UK outside the political and legal structures of the EU but treating the rest of Europe as the most important of our trading relationship (Philip Hammond),
2. A UK of good bitter and trains on which most people, regardless of ethnicity, speak English, respect the idea of cricket, and strengthened ties with the USA (Nigel Farage),
3. A new UK enriched by vigorous global trading relations with all the nations of the world, unhindered by EU regulations (Liam Fox, Boris Johnson). 
There's also 'constructive ambiguity' about all of these, and perhaps more (David Davis)...
So what our PM has to spell out in Florence on Friday 22nd September, are 1. Brexit transitional arrangements and 2. UK's future trading relationships. That's a template with which to check the contents of her speech, which may give me a clearer understanding of the 'transitional' procedures between now and 29 March 2019, and a clearer understanding of how May envisions the UK's future trading relationships with the rest of Europe - notwithstanding the possibility that she may want to instil, into her speech, David Davis' intentional use of 'constructive ambiguity'. That's quite possible as, after all, today's speech is part of the negotiation. This'll means I'll be as confused after she speaks as I am now - prey, as I've been this last year, to the wordplay of optimists and pessimists alike.
*** ***
23rd Sept - I read Theresa May's speech in Florence. I don't think our PM does 'chickening out' despite suggestion. Vicar's daughter etc. This was a crafted set of words to placate different visions inside her cabinet, party and voters; even a gesture of consolation towards people like me. A friend said her speech's most cogent point was a request to lengthen the transition process beyond 29.3.19, plus 'mood music' to support David Davis in next week's negotiations. Of course this will not please those who have urgent fantasies about a white Britain, and an end to immigration, or the much touted recovery of a form of sovereignty that never existed - as King Canute, according to myth, tried to point out to his courtiers on a beach rather a long time ago.
When my dad and mum divorced in 1949 the court proctor (what was he called?) had staff to keep an eye on both parties to prevent meeting or any hint of collusion between them to lessen the legal declaration of their case's breach in the moral fabric. My dad, guiltless of being unfaithful, honourably paid for a private detective to observe him entering and leaving a Brighton hotel with 'another women' - a humiliating pantomime to give the court 'adultery' as a cause. In the case of the Brexit 'divorce' collusion seems to be what the civil 'leavers' desire, while the uncivil ones prefer public repetition of Farage's 'You're not laughing now' speech in the EU parliament on 28th June 2016.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Waging peace Η κοινοτοπία του καλόυ

A fact unknown to all but the most acute children - perhaps refugees - because they're wrapped in love, and haven't been around long enough, is that houses, like dogs, furniture, people and, even rocks, are turning to dust second by second. There was a time in childhood, even youth, when I thought all work done on a house - new kitchen, new roof, new plumbing, new decor - would endure as pristine as the photos that advertise the services of decorating and house maintenance catalogues. The young are mostly unfamiliar with entropy - with decomposition and the secret perishings and spoliations that continue at the backs of cupboards, behind cookers and fridges, under fixings, between walls and in roof cavities and footings, where moth and rust corrupt.  But we adults who do want, at least for a while,  to maintain treasures on earth, must work for them - more or less all the time.
Linda's list
Lin's list of things to do never ends. I go along with it - semi-willingly. There are times when I or she or both of us do some unlisted task, which I insist she writes down so that it can be, at once, crossed out.
The kitchen doors have become the dining room doors
“What’s the most difficult thing about hanging a door, Lin?”
Everything about hanging a door is bloody difficult”
When we first assayed the inside of this house off Democracy Street, we saw that between its oldest downstairs room there was a odd-sized doorway – low enough to bump my head; wider than a single door. And there was no door. I could see hinge pintles left and right.
Fiddling through the scrap heap left inside our apothiki - a shed that accompanies most older houses, both workshop and store - I found, near the back, lying on cypress roof ties, a dusty cobwebbed old door, its top half having four panes of old glass set in slender transoms, next to a pair of sturdy cross-pieced planks.*

It was pleasing to restore these uneven pieces of old carpentry to their original space – except that the rehung door, when open, blocked the angled passage between kitchen and hallway.
Looking into the dining room, but the door, until we set about rehanging it, opened into the kitchen

We’d been living years with this minor inconvenience since 2008, until Lin said “This door, these doors, should open the other way”
“Wouldn’t it be great if this job turned out as simple as the idea”
One bad idea, not pursued, was to break out the whole door frame and turn it round. Next was to router a rebate on the back of the same frame.
“Trouble with that” said Mark in Piatsa “is that a router will only do part of the job and the rest would involve a great deal of work with a hammer and chisel. Messy.”
“No, we’ll create a new rebate by fixing squared lengths of hinge-wide wood to the back of the doorframe”
“Right! After that we remove all hinges and refix them – left ones on the right and vice versa. Inset them flush to the new wood and the same place on each door.”
I cycled down to Stamatti’s joinery on the Kato road, a kilometre from the village, and explained what we wanted; came back the next day to collect. He refused payment.
I’d not be surprised if the old male hinges on the jambs hadn’t been moved since fixed, over a century ago. I used a blow lamp to soften the paint and get a screwdriver grip on most of the 12 rusted slot screws. Burning smell. Three recalcitrants were wrenched out with grippers levered against the surrounding wood. The door hinges were easy to remove – fixed with Philips screws by me a few years ago. The trim that had been nailed to the other side of the two plank doorlet, I gently levered off and fixed to its other side.
Now the difficult part began. The verticals and horizontal timber of the doorway, as happens in old houses, was challengingly warped in two directions.
“There are going to be shims!” said Lin, and arguments for sure, since that's how we work.
The old hinge plates, wire brushed of minor rust and old paint, were switched left to right; females were attached to the doors in their old insets, and pintels into insets on the new wood, neat and easy work with the multi-cutter working along set-squared pencil lines.
“Now what? Fix the new rebates to the door frame?”
“Oh no!” says Lin “Hinge the new wood to the doors. Offer up.”
We lifted both doors into the space and held them against each other and against the door frame; the doors wedged up to allow for opening. This was when the fiddle-faddling of getting it just right began. It was to turn out that the right position for the new rebate required the predicted shims for it to stand vertical against a frame that wasn’t. Once the upright was screwed in and the door hanging, it refused to close. The centre of inner edge of the larger door, also warped, clipped the edge of the frame. We loosened screws on the rebate and shimmed; tightened them up getting closer to a clean door swing, while for most of an afternoon Lin whittled and sanded away at the central edges of frame and door, until they just cleared one another when the door was closed. It was then we found a gap between door and floor which, if filled in with a fillet on the sill of the door, would prevent it opening’
“Why, for goodness sake?”
“Lie on the kitchen floor and look into the dining room. That lovely smooth floor isn’t flat”
I put a ball bearing on it. We watched it roll towards to the kitchen.
“So that’s why the doors have riser hinges? They’re so difficult to find here. These must have been made by the local smith long ago when the village had one”
After this fol-de-rol the two-plank gap-filler on the other side turned out easier to hang, needing just a slight lean out from the top to meet the edge of the other door and close and open on the lock. And I fitted at the top of the two-plank, the cheapest bolt I could buy - €1.30 - from the locksmith and door fittings shop at 2 Spirou Arvanitaki in town.
“There’s a gap on the right side of the door panel” said Lin. Our lifting on and lifting off might have budged the centre panel out of its stiles. I rested a piece of square wood against the edge of the panel and hit it with a mallet until the gap reclosed.
“Now you’ve scarred the wood”
“Ruddy sand it out!”
All the bare door surroundings with their new countersunk screw holes, gaps between new and old wood, and the old insets on the kitchen side of the frame, were now filled with slivers of wood and filler, and sanded flush and smooth. Around the dining room side of the new hung doors we fixed lengths of moulded architrave - old trim with splits, holes and old nails, discarded by a wheelie bin in the village - into which, after we’d tidied them up, we sawed neatly fitting angles to match the not-quite-90 degree top corners.
Architrave round the new hung doors
The whole – including the scorched patches where I’d removed the kitchen-side hinges – Lin undercoated and painted gloss white. A large cork, cut and glued to the marble skirting in the dining room, served as a doorstop. The latch was set for opening into the kitchen had its curve on the wrong side. It was not reversible. I took it off the lock, used the angle grinder to roughen the curved surface of the latch, and glued on a piece of hard wood, sanding it flush to make the latch square ended, so the door closed tight....
Nearly reversing the latch, with a piece of shaped hard-wood and strong glue
 ...I got the old brass door handles that I’d dug up months ago from my Handsworth allotment, buried for years. They’d been soaking a month in penetrating oil. Now with wire brush, the rusty shaft and holding screws on the handles became visible. They yielded easily to the screwdriver, and then, with a mallet and driver, I tapped off the handles, both ready to clean with brown sauce on a rough backed sponge, and fix to the lock.
Brass door handles unearthed from my allotment

The job done, we cancelled our divorce proceedings.
“Those doors are so damned sexy, better hung than they’ve ever been!”
Strips of white marble, found by the road, cut and smoothed to tidy the rose marble skirting each side of the doors




Opening into the dining room instead of into the kitchen
*Half way up the two upright planks, that comprise one side of this doorway, are the initials 'MKM 1951' scratched into the wood. When visiting us in 2008, Kostas Apergis, Ano Korakiana's historian, said these were the initials of Marcos Cosmas Martzoukos who lived here, and 'still lives in the village'. Later this evening villagers at Piatsa told me that he is still alive, used to live in our house, but now lives further north, 'not in the village'.
*** *** ***
There can be no greater fanzine for me than the New York Review of Books. In the last two months I've read six editions - some saved up - cover to cover; articles - many with illustrations, line drawings, photos, reproduction of pictures, maps, portraits, caricatures - on art, fiction, history, current affairs, essay collections, short stories, poetry and poets, films, music, politics - domestic and international,  economics, natural history; writers from across the world exploring every continent, and all so eminently readable - not an exclusive magazine for fey escapists from the crudeness of the world - its editors, as I understand, seek rewrites, revisions, over and over, in the interests of intelligibility and accuracy. My mum subscribed until she died in 2012, and passed me on her copies for years, sometimes with underlinings and notes, but this year for the first time, having paid rather a lot for a newstand copy, I subscribed myself. Three came in my cabin bag on the plane, and a few weeks ago my son collected the latest from our mail in Birmingham and brought them here with him. There are on-line versions of the magazine, but I like its heft, the feeling that it's not an object made to gather dust, though I think I'd hesitate, ever, to use it as kindling. Unlike the daily news that bombards - like separate points on invisible graphs - and even distracts for all its sensational freshness, the NYRB arrives with perspectives that have been mulled. Its writing, when I look at past editions from decades ago, lacks the datedness of even the wisest daily. It stands back without detachment.
NYRBs for the first part of 2017

I've at last read Nabakov's Lolita. I didn't quite know what to expect given decades of celebrated notoriety. I understand that it's strongest criticism is that, as Nabokov writes, 'Lolita had been safely solipsised' - in other words deprived of identity and even existence, made into a fantasy by her abuser. Like The Kindly Ones which I read last year, the book transfixed me, and will sit inside my head like tattoo on my skin.

Linda bought me, at a table top sale in Kontokali, a copy of the 50 year correspondence between Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell between the 1920s and 70s. I've been reading it in the loo, over about three weeks. The book, which has brief and modest connecting commentary by its editor, is long, at times dense, often incomprehensible, with lots of gossip, prejudice, crudity, and  moments of dazzling recognition - and the loveliest writing - when they write about their Greece, their Greeks, their Athens, their Corfu (LD speaking of his last home in Provence '...having fouled my own nest in the same way in Greece' 1959 p.339) and the people they knew here, with whom they ate and drank and loved, and 'fucked' and talked ('these talents, these genii, so far above me in their perceptions, nostalgias, sadnesses, talents, endeavours, and successes in the world' SB), but I'm also struck and even pleased, over and again, by their ordinary unprescience, fascination with unreliable opinion, frailties, illnesses, burglaries, money worries, daft enthusiasms - like ordinary folk; LDs loathing for the crowd, for the spread of motor cars and dead holiday apartments ringing old villages, strangling them, diesel smell replacing garlic and pissoir pong in Paris; all dead now, slipped away, roaming together in one of Dante's circles, friends for life.
In the looming shadow of an oppressive dictatorship and imminent world war, George Seferis and George Katsimbalis, along with other poets and writers from Greece's fabled Generation of the 1930s, welcomed Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell to their homeland. Together, as they spent evenings in Athenian tavernas, explored the Peloponnese, swam off island beaches, and considered the meaning of Greek life, freedom and art, they seemed to be inventing paradise. In a lyrical blend of personal memoir, literary criticism, and interpretative storytelling, Edmund Keeley takes readers on a journey into the poetry, friendships and politics of this extraordinary time. (Edmund Keeley's Inventing Paradise 2002)
What would they make of The Durrells- so popular on TV, a third series of the family's stay on Corfu for just 6 years - 1935-1940 - a myth being filmed as family comedy on the island even now?
Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell in Corfu in 1939


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

'Restored to Life'

"So perhaps there's a small part of the past here, that won't pass away". Two years after I terminated Delta Leisure's licence to retail my stepfather's Out of Town DVDs, on grounds of 'breach of contract' - have to get the legal language right - and their 'insolvency', I have signed an Acquisition Agreement with Tim Beddows on behalf of Network Distributing Limited, to relicense not ony the existing DVDs in a revised format with new artwork by our son Richard, but to include with this material more of my stepfather's films that have been recently unearthed, and most exciting of all, and more significant for me and others interested in Jack Hargreaves' work including Network's MD, to recover scores of 16mm films and 1/4" sound tapes of Out of Town episodes that Jack stored in his shed at Raven Cottage, Dorset, (more details here) and, after perambulations, are stacked on dexion shelves in our Birmingham garage.
29th Apr 2017: message from Julian Schmechel  Simon. You are far too modest to agree with this I know, but perhaps without realising it, you have become the guardian of Out of Town, and Jack's other work, recording a now vanished rural way of life. Speaking as one who grew up in this 'Former Culture', and who well remembers taking part in many of the activities catalogued, I am aware of the immense debt owed to you. You may think my words melodramatic; but consider. When you and I are both dust, future generations, (living in the 'cracks between the concrete') will be able to view Jack's programmes, and have insight into the rural past. This is due almost entirely to your efforts, and for that, 'Thank you'
30/4/17 Dear Julian. I was going to get in touch now the days grow longer and you have real sun instead of that helping domestic light. Your words are lovely and not, to me, melodramatic. They do not embarrass me even if I cannot embrace them alone as I've had such help in the project you praise so eloquently - Linda my wife, my son (recall the draft art work), Paul Peacock who wrote J's biography, and now - he prefers to stay in the background - the businessman Tim Beddows from Network Distributing with whose company I'm about to sign a contract (we've been meeting on and off for two years), Simon Winters from Kaleidoscope, many people whose thought and words on these pages have reminded me that there is a legacy to be cherished, the presence of Jack in my head - alive from when I was a 6 year old, and after he left us, Tony Herbert and Ian Wegg who know so much about Southern TV and the date and origin of so many specific episodes of OOT, friends I've not named who've helped in the storing of the old film and sound tape in my garage and its transport in earlier years, Dave Knowles (able to find his way around the Southern TV studios, at Northam Southampton, in the dark) with his re-introduction of Old Country from which he's hardly recovered his investment (a labour of love from one of Jack's original technical team at Southern), Dean Hoffman in Maryland USA who has helped create restorations in draft of the OOT archive and sent them back to me across the Atlantic, Dave King who rescued old OOT recordings from storage shelves that mighty Endemol wanted cleared, their contents discarded - forever; Francis Niemczyk who first took on the recovery of the archive films and tapes and Frazer Ash from BUFVC, who now continues this with Francis, learning all the time. Charles Webster, ex-Delta, who for a long time kept my chin up on the 'Restored to Life' project when it seemed to be going nowhere. You are probably right (I'm not that modest) in saying that I have a co-ordinating role among these friends and helpers and inspirers, and thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to make this list of our 'team'. I, like Jack, value my past. I, following him, respect the past, but not uncritically, sentimentally or other than slightly nostalgically. I'm not one who believes in what the late Zygmunt Bauman referred to as 'retrotopia', in a world where so many find it increasingly impossible to reside faith or hope in the future. I think Jack wavered between optimism and the pessimism he seemed to express in that ode from whose last lines you quote about love of country (not nation, but the countryside and all that it had been and could be). As he said of dying, it didn't scare him too much; what really vexed him about no longer being around was 'not knowing what happened'. I think we perhaps feel the same. Much affection and good wishes, Simon (in Corfu enjoying the sun of beloved Greece and loving the contemplation of dust - ingredient of that unknown substance that we and the world need - humus).
Our son, on a surprise visit, works on graphics for the new Out of Town DVD issue

Vol 1 Out of Town to be released 31 July 2017. Art: Richard Baddeley
Hugely popular and fondly remembered to this day, Out of Town saw Jack Hargreaves exploring rural life in Britain – reflecting on its character, traditions, history and folklore, and the skills that had passed from generation to generation. With his extensive experience, knowledge and love of the countryside, Hargreaves' easygoing presentation style enthralled both rural and urban viewers – the series becoming so popular it ultimately ran for over two decades. An unsentimental record of a bygone time, Out of Town set the bar high for all "country matters" series that followed in its footsteps. This volume contains the 35 editions that remain from 1980/1 – including the unbroadcast 21st anniversary special and an episode never previously released on DVD - being the last episode of Out of Town Series 22 (of the total 23 OOT series) in which JH warns, in an episode broadcast in Sept 1980, that there will only be one more series, and signals that 'it's time to go.' (My stepfather saw the writing on the wall for the future of Southern TV!). No-one had a complete version of this OOT episode on record, but it was discovered that one half of it was held by Ian Wegg and the other half by Jack's great cameraman, Stan Bréhaut. Stan's widow, Marion Bréhaut, and Ian Wegg gave their two halves to Simon Coward of Kaleidoscope. He has put those two parts together and remastered the whole episode for Network. It's not the only extra on this new OOT issue, but I'm so glad it's resurfaced and so grateful to Stan's wife and Ian. Other material on Network's OOT Vol 1 DVD, includes Oliver Kite's Summer in Kite's Country, as well as Jack's Learning to Fish, a B & W film he made in in 1966. More material in this volume is, as yet, unannounced by Network
Hod Hill, Stourpaine now - a landscape from the OOT clip our son used to create the DVD cover (photo: Graham Beddow)

*'Restored to Life' - our restoration project takes a name from a phrase in a novel by Jack's favourite author, Charles Dickens, in this case 'A Tale of Two Cities', who's first lines J could recite with such pleasure. 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.'....

*** *** ***
Saissetia oleae colonies extract large quantities of sap, causing general host debilitation and build-up of sticky honeydew deposits on nearby surfaces. The honeydew may attract attendant ants. Sooty moulds grow on the sugary deposits. Badly fouled leaves may be dropped prematurely. The older insects are usually quite easy to see as dark grey or brown-to-black lumps on leaf undersides and stems.
As a result of some pest-on-predator imbalance, perhaps caused by an exceptionally cold spell in March, citrus trees all over the island - and probably beyond - are affected by a plague of black scale insects. The females settle on the underside of a leaf and attach themselves to it, sucking sap; weakening - possibly fatally so we have been warned - the whole tree. The males fly between leaves and tree spreading the blight. This is the first sight we've had of this problem in 10 years.
"I assume the females also fly" said Lin "until they attach themselves"
The female insects, once clustered under a leaf, exude honeydew which attracts the spores of the same damp sooty mould that settles on many surfaces during winter. The mould, covering the top-side of the infested leaves, prevents photo-synthesis. Columns of ants march up and down trunks, branches, twigs and over leaves, feasting on the honeydew, but serving no purpose other than to satisfy their appetite for the sweet stuff.
Sooty mould on the topside of leaves of one of our lemon trees colonised on their underside by scale insects
We had hoped that new growth would surmount the problem, but swiftly the insects began colonising new young leaves. No-one we asked quite knew the best way to treat the problem, or they came up with chemicals of uncertain safety and doubtful efficacy.
A culprit colony on a shed lemon leaf - killed with insecticide soap spray. Is that white stuff honeydew?


I think I understand this hesitancy; that this scale insect infestation – common in many other parts of the world - which I had thought to be a regular local occurrence which our trees, over the 10 years we’ve been here, had been fortunate in avoiding, is new to Corfu. It's just arrived from somewhere else. Hence the relative puzzlement as to what it is and how to treat it. Last night over a drink at Piatsa, Mark who deals with trees, among other skills, told us he’d not come across this before. I stand to be firmly corrected on this surmise. 
Lin studied the problem on the internet and selected her choice of spraying recipe - dissolving, in a gallon of water, a bar of olive oil soap, bought in N.Theotoki Street, with which she mixed two tablespoons of corn-oil for leaf adherence, a teaspoon of wine vinegar and a teaspoon of ground red pepper to deter future pests. We spent a couple of days laboriously sawing and lopping away excess and dead growth from the centre of our trees and off the ends of longer branches - the leaves, thousands of them covered in scale insects and mould, bagged and disposed of; twigs and branches cut up for kindling.
Mark lent us a back-pack sprayer, pressured by hand, with a reaching-wand. After the heat had gone out of the sun the other evening, we began spraying the underside of every citrus tree, working upwards on a stepladder, and by sitting on the apothiki roof and eventually reaching from the balcony where we let a helpful breeze carry liquid to the furthest leaves.
"We have to try to kill the lot in one go" said Lin.
The soaked leaves dripped soapy insecticide onto the ones below, and on us. Testing the effect on a couple of soaked leaves, the insects had turned into a black paste. Our lemon trees and one orange are treasures; not fruit that for all their proliferation here, we, from north of the olive belt, could ever take for granted.
"This mix only works while the leaves are wet"
"They should stay that way at least overnight" I said "I sort of want these little bastards to suffer as well as die"
We used 5 gallons of Lin's insecticidal soap mix on the Citrus Scale Insect infestation
In the days that followed it looks as if the cure has worked.
"At least temporarily" says Lin.
New growth is clear. On old leaves, the killed insect colonies, from turning black mush, are drying into dust that slowly falls away.
A shed, but treated, lemon leaf showing what's left of the Scale Insect colony that killed it
We keep our fingers crossed.

Back numbers