Monday, 31 March 2008

Post Office

I've just responded to my local MP's consultation on the proposed closure of our local post office. I am opposed to it, as I am to all the other proposed closures. I realise there are financial considerations but I also believe that there are aspects of our life as a community on which one cannot, and should not, put a price - and local post offices are one of them. Doorstep milk deliveries are another. It would be cheaper to buy my daily pinta from the local supermarket but it's not as convenient, not as environmentally friendly and wouldn't keep my milkman in a job.

Anyway I hope I remember to post my response in time and that it helps keep our post office open.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Local Heroes

The Observer outstanding ethical achievement award was given to Leona Williamson, of St Werburgh's City Farm cafe. In all the 16 years I have lived in Bristol I have never visited St Werburgh's City Farm. Perhaps the main reason is that we we have our own excellent city farm here in Bedminster, Windmill Hill City Farm. When the girls were little I spent hours and hours down there looking at the animals, painting in the play centre and bouncing in the rumpus room. It is now the location of our much neglected allotment.

However I am now tempted to venture to St Werburghs and see what all the fuss is about. I promise to let you know when I do.

Railway Path Saved

This afternoon I attended the Save the Railway Path rally on College Green. The more dedicated protesters had cycled or walked in along the path from Fishponds and arrived shortly after I did. We listened to the end of another remarkable performance from the Ambling Band and then heard from a few activists and supporters, including two very well spoken children. It seems that the protesters have forced the council to shelve the plan to run a rapid transit bus route along the railway path. What possessed them to even consider it in the first place beats me. Not living in East Bristol I have never used the path but I understand that it serves a much greater function than its name suggests and is beloved of walkers, children on their way to and from school, families relaxing at the weekend, and a variety of small creatures. Anyway, it's safe - for the moment at any rate.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Earth Hour

I celebrated my Earth Hour by playing Boggle by candlelight with my family and a few friends. How did you spend yours?

Lights Out!

Please remember to turn your lights out for one hour at 8-o-clock this evening. To find out why visit Earth Hour.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008


This week the BBC have been broadcasting reports from Midway Island highlighting the problems caused by plastic waste. Apparently every one of the 2 million albatrosses living on the island contains plastic and about one third of the chicks die from plastic mistakenly fed to them by their parents.

Over the last few years I have been trying to reduce, reuse and recycle my waste and, with the help of my local council's recycling scheme, have had success with paper, cardboard, batteries, glass, cans, aluminium foil, organic waste etc but plastics continue to cause me real problems. There is a plastic bottle recycling centre within walking distance but it only accepts certain types of plastic. This leaves me with a a binful of items destined for the dreaded landfill site.

A link from Bean Sprouts led me to The Rubbish Diet which has inspired me to raise my recycling game and tackle my plastic waste problem head on. And the best way to do this is to stop buying plastic. This is not going to be easy, and in some cases, I suspect, impossible. But if I can achieve a significant reduction then I shall have made progress.

So I have today bought what I hope will be my last pot of yogurt and am making my own following Melanie (Bean Sprouts) Rimmer's recipe. I don't have a kitchen thermometer so I have had to guess what 50 degrees feels like. I will find out whether I got it right when I open the thermos flask tomorrow morning!

Monday, 24 March 2008

Leigh Woods

Today Alan and I went for a walk in Leigh Woods. The sun kept popping in and out, and there were some very ominous looking clouds but the rain held off. It was good to be out in the fresh air and witness the first signs of spring. We're so lucky to have these woods within walking distance of our home and it's such a shame that we don't make more use of them. But today we did.

Sunday, 23 March 2008


Happy Easter! Alleluia! (which for some inexplicable reason I prefer to Hallelujah)

The eggs were decorated Ukrainian style (known as pysanky) by my younger daughter and myself at a friend's house a fortnight ago. It's a method not unrelated to batik, and involves tracing patterns on the shell with melted wax before dipping them in a series of coloured dyes. There were a dozen of so of us (all ages and both sexes) seated round the dining room table working away while drinking tea, eating cake and chatting. It was one of the most relaxing and yet most productive Sunday afternoons I have spent in a long time. I'd like more of them. The friend is American and I get the impression, from films such as Witness (one of my all time favourites*), that Americans are traditionally better at communal artistic activity than we are. There's nothing like a bit of manual work to help people relax and communicate with one another.

* due in large part to a memorable scene in which Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis 'dance' round a broken down car to Wonderful World by Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert and Lou Adler.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

The Fourth Plinth

My elder daughter has chosen Impressionism as the theme for her GCSE Art exam next month, so today we visited the National Gallery in London for some inspiration.

While we were there we saw the latest work of art to be exhibited on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square - Model for a Hotel 2007 by Thomas Shutte. It adds a bit of colour to an otherwise fairly grey landscape but I preferred Alison Lapper Pregnant by Marc Quinn.

There is an exhibition in the National Gallery of the six shortlisted models for the next Fourth Plinth and an opportunity to express your preference. Antony Gormley, of whom I am an admirer, as is my fellow blogger Steve Broadway, would like to exhibit members of the public 24 hours a day for 1 hour each. His entry is entitled One and Other and he got my vote. ‘Through elevation onto the plinth and removal from common ground’, explains Gormley, ‘the subjective living body becomes both representation and representative, encouraging consideration of diversity, vulnerability and the individual in contemporary society’. Over a period of 12 months 8,760 people would take part and, if he wins, I'd love to be one of them.

My second favourite was Tracey Emin's Meerkats (Something for the Future). You can see them all and cast your vote by following the links from the Fourth Plinth website above.

I think the whole concept of the Fourth Plinth is brilliant and should be encouraged.

Friday, 21 March 2008

The Passion - Re-examined

I watched the third episode of The Passion this evening. It did not make easy viewing.

I still don't believe that it has shed any new insights on the events but maybe it doesn't need to. Maybe it's enough just to tell it once again.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

The Passion

I have been watching the BBC's Passion. There have been two episodes with two to come. The set is authentic, the cast excellent and the music atmospheric. The bad guys (Pilate, Caiaphas and Judas) are given a sympathetic hearing and Jesus is deliberately portrayed as a fairly ordinary human being. The trouble is that I don't really like him very much. He appears smug and self aware. I don't think Jesus would have been like that. I think he would have been kinder and gentler. But maybe you'll disagree. And this is the difficulty in making a film about Jesus. Everyone's image of him is different because everyone's image is personal.

There have been many other versions of the passion, some of them stand out above the others. My favourites are Scorcese's Last Temptation of Christ, Monty Python's Life of Brian and the BBC's Manchester Passion. Three very different productions but united by their challenge to us to look at a familiar story from a completely different angle, to see it afresh - something that this Passion has so far failed to do for me.


I was sad to hear of the death of Anthony Minghella. Not that I knew very much, if anything, about him as a person, but I have seen and admired several of his films, which is perhaps enough. Truly, Madly, Deeply is one of my favourite films, and not just because it was filmed in Bristol. It is an excellent depiction of a woman coming to terms with the death of a lover, encompassing the full range of emotions she experienced. Then there is the English Patient. I read the book and could not imagine how any director could do it justice. Yet he did, and so hauntingly. It is fitting that his latest offering, The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is being shown on the BBC this Easter weekend. I must not miss it.

In an interview on PM this evening Ralph Fiennes made frequent references to Minghella's humanity. What a wonderful tribute and so accurately borne out.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The Halo's Slipped

I think Delia has lost the plot. In an attempt to encourage us back into the kitchen she has turned to supermarket shelves for the packets, tins and jars she wants us to use to prepare quick and easy meals for our families and friends. There's no denying that her meals look (and almost certainly taste) delicious but I question whether this is the direction in which we should be heading.

It's true that we are looking for faster ways to get food on the table but I don't believe that this should be at the expense of good quality fresh ingredients locally produced and purchased. Despite what Delia says, I remain unconvinced that a tin of minced lamb will ever taste as good as its fresh organic equivalent bought from the local butcher and browned in a pan with a chopped onion and a few green herbs - and in pretty much the same time. As for frozen mashed potato. How long does it take to peel a few spuds and throw them in a pan of boiling water? There are other issues as well. Convenience food is packaged, often excessively so. It's less likely to be local and will probably have been transported for miles to the supermarket.

However, what I most object to, is the notion that the cooking of a meal should be as quick and efficient as possible. What happened to the joy of cooking - the quiet moments spent preparing an evening meal or the communal effort of producing a feast to share with friends. Instead of cutting down on time spent in the kitchen wouldn't it be better to cut down on some of the activities keeping us out of it?

So no Delia, I'm going to pass on your book, switch on the radio and chop a few onions.

Monday, 10 March 2008

One Year On

It's a year since my dad died. I still think of him often, especially when I'm listening to classical music. During the last years of his life his Morningside flat was rarely silent, invariably filled with the sound of an instrument or the human voice coming from the radio or from one of the hundreds of CDs he couldn't resist buying and which I've happily inherited.
It wasn't until he died that I realised that the death of a loved one doesn't merely rob you of their physical presence but of part of yourself - the lifetime of experiences you shared with them - people, places, events, sights, sounds ... My dad was the last link I had with much of my past in India and Edinburgh and that link is now broken forever. There are memories I shared with him and no one else, and now not even him. Thankfully they are overwhelmingly happy ones.
The other thing I've realised is how much of him lives on in me, and my sister and our children - not just in our physical appearance but in what we believe, how we treat other people, what makes us laugh, the things that matter most to us. He was a good man and I hope I'll do him proud.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

I'm Back

Here I am again. Back by popular demand. ..... Well two readers have commented on my recent silence.

Actually I am deeply wounded at not having been included in today's Observer's list of The World's 50 Most Powerful Blogs. They just don't know what they are missing.

I have glanced through the list and must say that, on first sight, there are no more than a couple to which I would be tempted to log on. One is the diary of an English woman living in Paris ( and the other is one family's search for the good life ( The latter is a timely reminder that I should get started on my own allotment before it's too late.