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?


Sunday, June 21, 2015



So you see, one thing really does lead to another ...

Had there not been the Battle of Waterloo, there would not have been the re-enactment. Had there not been the re-enactment, the school would not have been requisitioned & I would not have had the day off. Had I not had the day off, I would not have arranged with A. to meet for lunch & afterwards go to buy papers to make a book. Had I not decided to cycle (the day being fine, myself feeling hearty, etc.) I would not have searched for a street sign to chain my bike to. Had I not been in the act of chaining my bike, then the man from the new gallery would not have emerged & asked whether I would be leaving it there all day because he had an opening night with drinks later on & he intended putting tables & chairs outside on the pavement. Had etc. etc. then I - we - would not have stepped inside said gallery & looked at the work going up on the walls & ... lo & behold! ... discovered works on paper & canvas by ... Ania Lemin (marvellous book creator & wielder of a most imaginative pencil stub - I have posted about her before).

Here are two small canvases by Ania which now grace the walls of the hall. Each time I reach for my keys in the morning I'll be able to steal a glance at them.

How to make a day.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

An unexpected day off tomorrow due to the disruption surrounding the Battle of Waterloo reenactment. Apparently there's no point going down there on the off chance of being admitted - strictly tickets only. Something of an irony, surely, warfare as spectator sport.

Tant pis. I will head into town & go & buy papers for a new little volume.

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The Big News: Chris Evans is to be the new presenter of Top Gear at a modest salary of £5 million. So two further reasons not to watch the programme.

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Last minute exam revision with the older Brussel Sprout going on in the room above my head. A battle in itself ...

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Listening to the √Čtudes pour piano (Premier livre, 1985) by Ligeti - the Sony edition, vol. 3 played by Pierre-Laurent Almard.

This is special indeed.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Quickly read a Guardian headline as 'Frances de la Tour' thinking that it must be an interview or a new role she's taken & wasn't she good in Rising Damp.

On closer scrutiny, the headline read: Tour de France.

Not sure what this misreading suggests ...