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Sunday, 21 January 2018

One window <Μικρό παράθυρο, πολλά δουλειά>

“It would be simpler, even economical in the long run, to remove the whole window, frame and all, and have a metal opening window installed”
It’s a quaint opening in the house, half hidden by the hard steps to the outside balcony, and pot plants.
It was once a wood framed inward-opening windows with transoms, but before we came here, that had been removed - regarded as beyond repair perhaps - and we have instead one fixed piece of glass. It drips condensation. It doesn't open.
6 years ago Lin and I made shutters to fit outside this window - using doors recovered from a kitchen cupboard. The job was complicated because the entry to the window at the house wall was inches larger than the square where the shutters were to fit flush to the window. The angles were also slightly different. We had to cut out a section from the frame for the shutters to get it to fit; then rejoin the cut ends. Then came the hinging of the shutters in a space that because of the proximity of the external balcony steps did not allow the full shutter to open. We worked our way round these difficulties but our neighbour, Lefteris, watching us, mused &lt;Μικρό παράθυρο, πολλά δουλειά>

The shutters were made to a frame that didn't fit

For the last year Lin’s noticed that the inside of the old frame is rotting. She’s poked a finger deep into the foot of it. Out came insects. Procrastination no longer possible, we set to, chiseling out the wood below and beside the window. It came away in flaky chunks...

...some damp but less rotten than termite infested. The tiny insects came pouring out onto the interior sill to be killed with insecticide spray.
Our chiseling out continued along all the bottom and the lower sides of the frame until we were down to rock and cement. I used the multi-tool wood cutter to remove frame-wood back to where it was still sound – hard old wood…..As I expected more and more unsound, damp and rotten wood needed cutting out.
"I'm glad we started on this at last" I said aloud, thinking how we could easily have invested in a new opening double-glazed window. But as we invested work on repairing what existed, its value shifted.
"I think it's all out now. You've sprayed insecticide thoroughly. What next?"
"Lots of insectival wood preservative" said Lin...
...and then I'll spade the cavity with puddlowed mortar and finish with plaster."
"I'll unscrew the shutters. sand, undercoat and paint them and the external frame"
I'd seen there was a length of the lower frame with half round stoppers for the shutters to rest against, serving as a long rectangular rainwater 'ditch' - probably the source of the rot. In the apothiki I dug out a length of hardwood that, by good luck, was exactly wide and high enough. Offered up, and cut to exact length, sanded, preserved, undercoated, painted twice in Corfu green, it was put out to dry - 24 hours each coat.

At the same time, after her plaster had dried, Lin applied undercoat and gloss white to her repairs inside

"Brilliant. I'll get on with the frame. Same old."
Sand, undercoat, two layers of Corfu green, after removed the shutters to give them the same treatment. The gloss takes at least 24 hours to dry "better left 48 hours".
The length of wood to fill the 'ditch' was inserted on a bed of silicone filler. All cracks were filled. On top I painted a generous thickness of Corfu green paint. When all had dried - thanks to a few days warm rainless weather - I re-attached the shutters having cleaned up the little brass handle used to open them from outside.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Christmas in the Village

Ano Korakiana - Άνω Κορακιάνα (photo: Γιάννη Ματθεοφίλου - Yiannis Mattheophile)
In Ano Korakiana, Christmas is a celebration of the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, in fulfillment of the divine will of God, to save us from sin....Γιατί ο Θεός αγάπησε τόσο πολύ τον κόσμο που έδωσε τον μόνο γιο του... John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son...
12/12/17 Ολονύχτιο Βράδυ, παραμονή της εορτής του Αγίου στο χωριό, οι «επιτελούντες» της Λειτουργίας (πατέρας Ευδόκιμος, παπα-Βασίλης, ψάλτες και λοιποί ενορίτες) αποχωρούν από την οικία της Έμμης και της Κατερίνας Σαββανή μετά το καθιερωμένο λιτό δείπνο, επιστρέφοντας στη μικρή  εκκλησία για το Ολονύχτιο και αφήνοντας πίσω τους το σαββανάτικο «κοκκινέλι» συνοδευόμενο από μήλο και κουμ-κουάτ.
12/12/17 In the village, on the eve of the feast of the Saint, the 'performers' of the night-long service (Papa Evdokimos, Papa Vasilis, chanters and other parishioners) had a simple supper at the home of Emmi and Katerina Savvani, before leaving the warmth of the Savvani home with its apples and kumquats, returning to the small church for the 'Overnight' service, το Ολονύχτιο'.

Με το πέρασμα της ώρας η μικρή εκκλησία γεμίζει από κόσμο που παρακολουθεί με προσήλωση την ανάγνωση από το Συναξάρι του Αγίου με τα αποδιδόμενα θαύματα, ενώ οι ψάλτες στα αριστερά και στα δεξιά του ναού δίνουν το δικό τους τόνο, συνοδεύοντας τους ιερείς.
Over the night, the small church fills with people joining in reverence to hear the recital of the Holy Story, while the chanters - left and right of the church - play their part accompanying the priests.

Τις πρώτες πρωινές ώρες η Ολονυχτία θα λήξει με άρτους και σπερνά που μοιράζονται στους παρευρισκομένους και ανταλλαγή ευχών για την εορτή της ημέρας.
Early in the morning, the 'Overnight' ends with bread and collyva, shared with the congregation, and the exchange of good wishes for the day.

Εορταστικό κλίμα...21/12/17 Festive atmosphere
Γιορταστική ατμόσφαιρα στο χωριό καθώς πλησιάζουμε στα Χριστούγεννα...
Η Χορωδία πραγματοποίησε την τελευταία πρόβα της πριν από τη χριστουγεννιάτικη εκδήλωση που θα πραγματοποιηθεί με τη συμμετοχή και της Μπαντίνας στην εκκλησία του Αγίου Γεωργίου την Παρασκευή 22 Δεκεμβρίου 2017 το βράδυ.
Στον Άη-Νικολόπουλο, η ενορία του Καμπουλιώτη τοποθέτησε φωταγωγημένο καράβι με επιμελημένη πινακίδα, ενώ αναμένεται από στιγμή σε στιγμή η «απάντηση» από την ενορία του Αγίου Γεωργίου.
Και στο πλαίσιο των εορτών διοργανώνεται από τη Δημοτική Κοινότητα το Σάββατο 23 Δεκεμβρίου στις 5.30 το απόγευμα στο «Luna D’Argento» χριστουγεννιάτικο πάρτυ για μικρούς, αλλά ...και για τους κάπως μεγαλύτερους και μάλιστα με μπουφέ από σπιτικές φαγώσιμες δημιουργίες...
A festive atmosphere in the village as we approach Christmas ... The Choir had its last rehearsal before the Christmas event that will take place with the participation of the Bandina in the church of St. George on Friday evening, December 22, 2017.
At St Nicholas, the parish of Kambouliotis displayed a floodlit boat with an elaborate sign. A 'reply' from the parish of Saint George is expected in due course.
And as part of the celebrations, the Municipal Community is organising a Christmas party for young people on Saturday 23rd December at 5.30pm at Luna D'Argentoand, for the slightly older ones, a buffet of homemade creations ...
**** ****
Σας γνωρίζουμε ότι την Παρασκευή  22.12.2017 και ΩΡΑ 19:30 θα πραγματοποιηθεί στον Ιερό Ναό του Αγίου Γεωργίου  η καθιερωμένη Χριστουγεννιάτικη συναυλία των τμημάτων της Φιλαρμονικής μας. Διευθύνει ο Αρχιμουσικός κος Κώστας Ζερβόπουλος και ο μαέστρος Γιώργος Άνθης.
Επίσης οι μαθητές της Φιλαρμονικής μας θα παιανίσουν τα κάλαντα  στις γειτονιές του χωριού μας το πρωί της ημέρας των Χριστουγέννων μετά τη θεία λειτουργία. Τους μαθητές θα συνοδεύουν και τα μέλη του Δ.Σ. για την καθιερωμένη οικονομική ενίσχυση.
Ο Πρόεδρος και τα μέλη του Δ.Σ. εύχονται ολόψυχα σε όλους τους κατοίκους του χωριού μας Χρόνια Πολλά, Καλές Γιορτές και Ευτυχισμένος ο Καινούργιος Χρόνος.
                                                       NOTICE  21.12.17
Our Philharmonic students will also play carols around the neighbourhoods of our village on Christmas morning after the divine service. The students will accompany members of the Board for the traditional collection. The Chairman and Board of Directors extend their wholehearted good wishes to all inhabitants of our village. Happy Nativity, Good Celebrations and Happy New Year. We know that on Friday,  22 December 2017 at 19.30,  the traditional Christmas concert of our Philharmonic departments will take place in the church of St. George, led by Archbishop Kostas Zervopoulos, conducted by Giorgos Anthis.
*** ***
Προεόρτια Χριστουγέννων 25.12.17
Παρασκευή προπαραμονή των Χριστουγέννων πραγματοποιήθηκε στην εκκλησία του Άη-Γιώργη η χριστουγεννιάτικη εκδήλωση του Μουσικού Συλλόγου, με τη συμμετοχή της Μπαντίνας και της Χορωδίας.
The Musical Society's Christmas Eve event took place on Christmas Eve at the church of Agios Georgios with the participation of the Bandina and the Choir.
Ο Πρόεδρος του Συλλόγου που προλόγισε την εκδήλωση εξέφρασε τις ευχές της Διοίκησης και στη συνέχει τα δύο σώματα παρουσίασαν ένα ωριαίο πρόγραμμα με χριστουγεννιάτικες μελωδίες. υπό τη διεύθυνση του Κώστα Ζερβόπουλου και του Γιώργου Άνθη αντίστοιχα.Ειδικότερα, όσον αφορά στο χορωδιακό μέρος, η Δώρα Μεταλληνού προλόγισε κάθε κομμάτι της Χορωδίας με γνωστούς ποιητικούς στίχους.
The President of the Association expressed the good wishes of the Administration after which the two groups presented an hourly programme of Christmas melodies. under the direction of Kostas Zervopoulos and Giorgos Andreas, the music and singing interspersed with familiar poems recited by Dora Metallinou.

Το απόγευμα της ίδια ημέρας, στο Νηπιαγωγείο έλαβε χώρα η χριστουγεννιάτικη γιορτή των μικρών μαθητών με την επιμέλεια των νηπιαγωγών τους, ενώ το Σάββατο το βράδυ, παραμονή των Χριστουγέννων πραγματοποιήθηκε το χριστουγεννιάτικο πάρτι για μικρούς και μεγάλους στο Luna d’Argento.
On the afternoon of the same day, after a Christmas Eve celebration for Kindergarten pupils in the care of their nursery nurses, there was a Christmas party, for all ages, at Luna d'Argento.
Υ.Γ. Το τελευταίο κομμάτι της Χορωδίας, τα «Κάλαντα» αφιερώθηκαν στο Γεράσιμο Μαρκορά (επτανήσιο ποιητή και δημοτικιστή), η εγγονή του οποίου είναι μέλος της Χορωδίας Κορακιάνας.Y.K.
The carols in the last part of the concert were dedicated to the poet Gerasimos Markaras (a Corfiot folk poet), whose granddaughter is a member of the Korakiana Choir. 
Christmas in Thessaloniki - until I see a photo of Ano Korakiana's boat
*** *** ***
Πρωτοχρονιά 2018
Το βράδυ, για μια ακόμη χρόνιά, η γνώριμη φιγούρα του Άη-Βασίλη θα κάνει τη γύρα της στα σπίτια, προκειμένου οι μικροί φίλοι του Αγίου να λάβουν τα δώρα τους και να ακουστούν για μια ακόμη φορά τα Κάλαντα «εν χορδαίς και οργάνοις».

New Year Day 2018....In the evening, for one more year, the familiar figure of Santa will make his round of the houses, so that the little ones receive their gifts from the Saint, and once again hear the 'tunes and songs' of Carols.
Note: The words in Greek are copied from the Ano Korakiana website administered by Thanassis Spingos who also took all photos, except of the boat. It is a privilege to be able to copy them to 'Democracy Street'. The English translation is entirely my responsibility. 
*** *** ***
We had Christmas in Birmingham. When the grandchildren came round they extracted small felt velcro'd toys from a sequence of 25 pockets and stuck them on the tree. We've had this Advent Calendar for over 30 years - a present from the Greek side of the family, that we can use over and over.
On Christmas night I strolled up Hamstead Road to St Mary'sBells were pealing for midnight mass; candle flames glowing through ogive windows; inside was warmth and light. On the way home I heard a few fireworks...
...a fox, sat in the grass beside my path. She turned around and around and strolled ahead and disappeared up Wellesbourne Road, sweetening the temper of the moment...John who'd swung the censer during mass had given me his key.
"I've got to put away my kit. Come and have a drink. Ask Lin too. I've got a bottle of Jack Daniels to open"
He went into the vestry. I went on up Beaudesert and opened his house. He soon followed. Lin, from our home, three houses up, joined us, and later John's wife, Gill, who dug out the bourbon.
"I liked the service" I said "but even Father Bob's quite conservative liturgy is a little words and tunes from what I know. What's engrained. I was glad to be there...I struggled to follow...except the carols. The church was beautiful, and so warm. I liked Father Bob's sermon...the defacing of the celebrities nativity at Madame Tussauds. He understood. Almost approved."
On Christmas day we drove across town to Amy and Guy and the grandchildren, with presents and some dishes Lin had cooked overnight, stopping on the way to collect Dorothy from her care home - rehearsal for more continuous care when she comes to live with us on a day not yet fixed. How incredibly disabling it is to be unable to walk, or indeed to have any traction in your legs. Moving Dot from place to place, especially in and out of a car, entails playing push-pull with a beloved being who, against every inclination of conscience, evokes in me the frustration of manipulating a sack of potatoes. I’ve become uncomfortably aware of my bounded charity. I suppose this is why love delivered as ‘professional care’ is expensive. I’m better at dealing with small children - my grandchildren I mean. I can wipe bums, clean off dribble, sweep up scattered food and take careless spillage in my stride, but messy vulnerability in old age repels me. I was fine taking my aged mum out shopping and for walks in her wheelchair. We talked and talked, and gazed at the landscape with such shared pleasure, but my mum’s intimate husbandry was in the hands of professional carers, behind curtains and doors; woman’s work, though of course there are men as good. I strive to choose words to protect my conscience.
Christmas lunch 2018

Thursday, 14 December 2017


I’d almost forgotten about snow; proper snow with sledging, snowballing, and inconvenience for people who want to go to work. The children rejoice. So far as I know, so does Oscar dog, even when, in the Highlands, there was little to be seen but his tail and a nose, surfacing now and then to check position. 

Birmingham, with the rest of the country south of the borders, gets taken by surprise. Snow comes so infrequently, the airwaves disperse hyperbole about 'weather', it can't be nostalgia that I recall such conditions as normal, to be taken in our stride. This weekend on to Monday, buses didn't run. Schools closed. No trains or trams for 48 hours, No gritting. When salting came, as befits services under 'austerity', only arterial roads got the treatment. 
Oliver was staying with us on Sunday. We ventured out on foot to the allotments. 
At the iron gates I brushed frosted snow off the lock's push buttons.
"We're the only ones to visit" 
"How do you know, grandpa?" 
"What do you notice about the snow, Oliver?"
To my surprise he couldn't work it out. 
We trudged through boot-depth snow to the plot. 

Pristine. From the parks came shouts and laughter. In the distance I could see the smudgy shapes of many Canada geese standing by the pond among the naked trees, oblivious to the stick people cantering about, snowballing, making snowmen, sledging.
"Help me, Oliver"
He'd already made sure to bring a carrot. The snow packed up sticky to make good lumps to pile up for our snowman's body. When he was nearly as high as me I used  a trowel to shape neck and shoulders. Oliver collected chunks with his gloved hands to fill in gaps in the body. 
"Charcoal for eyes! Veg nets for a scarf. Give us the carrot" 
I carved holes for nose and eyes.
"His mouth!"
I went in the greenhouse and found a dried runner bean pod, curved. Perfect. 
Amy rang "come home, Dad. We're all here now. Pasties and mince pies and...
"We'll go sledging in the park?"
"Of course"
I tarried to put out nuts, seeds, water and fat-balls for birds, Garlic stems were poking out through the snow in two beds; winter onions too. But for disturbance around our snowman, the plot lies under the snow, its soil teeming with dormant life. The burgeoning of summer is hardly imaginable. The bees are silent, clustered in winter around the queen; living off honey. The scene is black and white, but for Oliver's warm red coat and flags on the fruit cage.

** ** **
Our park has a special glamour under snow. Amy, Guy, Hannah, Oliver, Oscar dog and I walk over the rail bridge to the other side of the park with its bandstand, and steeper contours, good for sledging. 

We all have a go on our plastic sledges. I slide on my front, the better to steer with my toes. The children are fearless, sitting upright, veering into trees, tipping over. Up we stumble and down we go again - together and in turns dodging trees, the metal fence near the foot of the run, whooping, shouting, laughing with others sharing the slope,...
... until the sky tunes itself to dusk. We head home dragging the children on sledges. 
"I love seeing the street lights through the trees" I said to Amy. We're in a lovely city park remote from feral winter.
Dusk in Handsworth Park

** ** ** **
With many others, we've been helping Jan Kimber campaign against building houses over most of the Lea Hall Allotments. Jan and I evoked Handsworth Allotments Information Group (HAIG) - the small group that I'd set up to campaign against building houses over all the old Victoria Jubilee Allotments, where I now have my plot.
Lea Hall Allotments on Google Maps 

The plan to build on Lea Hall Allotments

Planning application 2017/08883/PA was submitted, on 25th October 2017, by Countryside Properties to build 110 new homes at the Lea Hall allotments site on Wood Lane, in Handsworth Wood. 'A mixture of detached, semi-detached and terraced, 79 of these 3+4 bed homes will be for sale and the other 31 will be for private rent.' My objection sent, with others, to Birmingham City Council Planning Department:
I wish to express my objection to planning application 2017/08883/PA to build on Lea Hall Allotments.
Allotments have legal protection under the the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908, unless it can be shown there is no demand for plots.
To suppress demand, Lea Hall Allotments Committee have been engaged in a ‘managed’ retreat from responsibility to look after these allotments, turning a statutorily protected green space into a profitable windfall site for housing.
This strategy, to empty allotment sites and suppress demand for plots,  in order to sell them, was criticised in the report of the Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Fifth Report ‘The Future For Allotments’ 11 June 1998, which described what’s been happening at Lea Hall Allotments as ‘constructive non-maintenance’.
Members of Lea Hall Allotments Committee have colluded with Countryside Properties (the second developer with whom they have had recent dealings), in ‘constructive non-maintenance’, by:
- not advertising plots and rejecting applications for them
- abandoning all but minimal maintenance, and failing to invest in site infrastructure,
- unnecessarily cutting down some of the site’s mature trees,
- repeatedly telling plot holders that plans to build on the site have already been agreed,
- excluding the contribution of women plot-holders to promoting the site by prohibiting them from committee deliberations, 
The applicant claims suitable substitute plots are available on other allotment sites. This is not a case that has been easy for them to make, as the Lea Hall Allotments site is, or would be if properly managed, uniquely attractive, facing open green space to the north (across a railway line which assists security), with woodlands on its edge, good drainage and an exceptionally well equipped clubhouse with bar, toilets, a bowling green and facilities for meetings and entertainment.
This application by Countryside Properties threatens to remove yet more green space from one of  our city’s finest Victorian suburbs, contrary to guidance in Birmingham City Council’s ‘Mature suburbs: Guidelines to control residential intensification - Feb 2008.
Properly managed  and advertised, Lea Hall Allotments, left as allotments and conservation area, open to the public, would be a most valuable community asset.
There is a significant deficit of open space in Lozells & East Handsworth Ward. The proximity of the application site to Perry Hall playing field, quoted by the applicant as an example of green space availability, is compromised by the railway line between New Street and Walsall that runs along the northern boundary of the neighbourhood.
The new allotments in the applicant’s proposal cover only 24% of the existing site and they are far smaller than the normal average of 200 square metres in other city allotments..
The woodland in the north east corner of the site provides screening and noise protection for residents of Lea Hall Road, serves as a visual amenity for users of Perry Hall Playing Fields, is a habitat for a rich variety of flora and fauna, and contributes to the area’s drainage.
It seems especially unwise to allow this development on greenfield land given the forthcoming analysis by West Midlands Combined Authority on the remediation and development of brownfield land (West Midlands Land Commission - Final Report to the West Midlands Combined Authority Board. 9th February 2017)
A tour around Lea Hall Allotments on 22nd November

Jan Kimber describes Countryside Properties' plans for Lea Hall Allotments at Birchfield Neighbourhood Forum - 30 Nov 2017

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