Monday, August 03, 2015

Steps in Lefkes, Paros 

"It is a process through which the order of a building or a town grows out directly from the inner nature of the people, and the animals, and plants, and matter which are in it.

It is a process which allows the life inside a person, or a family, or a town, to flourish, openly, in freedom, so vividly that it gives birth, of its own accord, to the natural order which is needed to sustain this life."

(The Timeless Way of Building, Christopher Alexander)

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Back from the holiday in Greece (a jolly 5 hour delay at Athens airport ostensibly due to a faulty plane back in Brussels but - as a fellow passenger suggested - more likely a deliberate rescheduling to save money).

The blog app has been updated & so images are able to load. However, my first attempt led to a huge photo spilling across the screen. This might be a more successful upload.

The photo was taken in the cafe/bar adjacent to the local museum in Kifissia & emblematic of what Greece needs right now.

More to follow.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A post dedicated to our Devon correspondent - Uncle Rob.

It has taken time for the light to dawn but yes ... I have finally understood the qualitative difference of freshly ground coffee as against ready ground varieties.

Memories redolent of 11 o'clocks & after dinners at Westfield Park come wafting back & - even further lodged in the archive - Charlotte Street in the late 80s (but that is another story).

Over 3 quid for a cappuccino at Maidstone services. Daylight robbery! and they have the gall to ask whether you want an extra shot of coffee with that. Even allowing for the cost of the grinder & the beans this is still a cheaper option.

Shaken & infused.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Pretty exhausted after a day's driving back from the UK via the Folkestone-Calais Eurotunnel.

Trying to make sense of disparate impressions & events ...

The Chancellor's budget & announcement of a "living" (sic) wage; signalled diversion at the M20 & then nothing leading to a cross-country adventure trying to find the terminal; BBC local radio item on whether or not women should shave their underarm hair; glimpse of a man wandering along the hard shoulder of the motorway leading away from the Calais platforms; hotel notepaper with scrawled ideas held by the new Greek Finance Minister; Murray through to the next round but plenty of vacant seats due to corporate hospitality deals; a long & frustrating traffic jam near Ghent; so many lorries - idling or just parked along the roads in France & England; tube strikes in London with further action to come; the Barclays head sacked despite glowing testimonials for his ability to instil values; billions wiped off the Chinese stock exchange; Tony Blair adamant that his decisions when in office have contributed nothing to the current situation in the Middle East ...

Anyone else sense that the entire system is running out of control?

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Almost a year ago I was sitting having a drink in Kifisia (an affluent suburb of Athens) with an ex-student. We chatted about 'the old days' and - naturally - the state of his country. I told him I was astonished to see so little evidence of the crisis - I nodded to the bars full of people, the shops buzzing ... - & he explained that Kifisia was not typical in many ways.

The conversation then turned to something I'd noticed at restaurants - a little drink or nibble offered before you'd even ordered. Was this just for tourists or a more general ritual? He explained that it was a way of establishing a 'rapport': I give you this as a gesture & you will do something for me. Not a calculated investment but a way of entering into a happy relation.

My ignorance of Economics has, of course, been well established. But I keep turning over this anecdote against the background of the Greek debt crisis, of insults being thrown at the nation ("lazy", "backsliders", "unrealistic"), of many of the population being interviewed who are fully aware of the ghastly situation & yet still prepared to say "no".

Forget Economics for a moment. Are we not witnessing an expression of an utterly different way of thinking - one that simply does not accord with the neo-liberal logics of the balance sheet, credit/debit, plus/minus? That Varoufakis & his supporters should not be bluntly categorised as loony left extremists but, in fact, representatives of a much older & nobler way of thinking? A way of thinking, indeed, we - in the West - can no longer 'afford' (in all sense of that word).

It seems nigh on impossible that Greece will not have to surrender & comply with the financial terms on offer. I suspect that Varoufakis & Tsipras will be ejected from office (or will resign beforehand) which - as certain commentators have suggested - is the implicit goal of Merkel's intransigence. (You see you can't do business with people like that.) Probably it will be the better outcome - at least in terms of Greeks keeping a roof over their heads, feeding their children & having some kind of social stability. However, I think we will look back on these weeks as a last noble & courageous attempt to think otherwise against the unstoppable, irrational (in their dogmatic unquestioned rationality) logics of the neo-liberal agenda.

Once upon a time Greek heroes fought monsters & threw javelins. In 2015 the battles are conducted more insidiously with spreadsheets on office tables. I know which version of a Golden Age I prefer.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Agnes Martin at Tate Modern & Joseph Cornell at the Royal Academy - what delights lie in store ... & yet what with demonstrations, delays, cancellations & diversions will we be able to get across to the UK let alone up to London one day next week ... ?

Monday, June 29, 2015

First day of the summer holiday. & a picture of a snail on the window sill of the garden shed.

A totem animal in its convolutions.
You are walking along the street & see someone lying in a doorway, clearly incapable of looking after themselves & in desperate need of medical attention.

Do you:

A. See what you can do to help, ring for an ambulance, get them treated as soon as possible & find out ways to help them build a life again?

B. Thrust a 50 euro note into their pocket with a slip of paper saying you'll be back tomorrow to take 10 euros back & - if they are still in no better shape - you'll give them another 25 euros but expect 20 euros back the next day ... & so on for the foreseeable future (despite seeing that they will only be getting worse) ... but knowing that this is a game you & a few friends have devised certain in the knowledge that if things get really bad you can always offset that 50 euros in another way (in fact, you've already made plans ...).

Seem familiar?

Obviously I understand very little about Economics. However, could someone please explain what is the point in debating whether to pour more billions of euros into Greece when a) it clearly has little capacity to generate any income of its own & b) austerity measures are guaranteed to stifle what feeble attempts at recovery there might be?

Would it not be more appropriate - indeed urgent - to discuss what could be done to regenerate the economy (& not simply rely on tourism)? Construction projects. Agricultural initiatives. Fishing. Shipping. Cultural & intellectual developments ...

Or is there a more sinister agenda in place - hands already being rubbed in anticipation of assets which will be going for a song as & when the country's infrastructure collapses.

Who'd like an island?