Thursday, 27 November 2008

Mumbai Memories

I have been shocked and saddened by the reports of the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. I was brought up in Pune, 120 miles south east of Mumbai (or Bombay, as it was then). We didn't visit very often, mostly on our way to and from the UK, but we had number of friends who lived not very far from where some of the attacks have taken place. I loved Mumbai. It was big and brash and boisterous compared to the relative gentility of Pune Cantonment. I never stayed in either of the hotels but I did go through the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (or Victoria Terminus (VT) as it was then). My memories are happy ones: being mobbed by coolies at VT, the lights on Marine Drive, evening strollers along Chowpatti Beach, the grandeur of the Gateway to India, the Indian handicraft emporiums, swimming at Breach Candy, old family friends ...

It's heartbreaking to hear of such acts of violence being committed against foreigners. In all my years in India I never once felt threatened because of who I was. In fact I was always treated with the utmost respect and consideration, even at the hands of complete strangers who had nothing to gain by their kindness. I am sure that these attacks sicken the hearts of the majority of Mumbaites, and Indians, and I hope that this group, whoever it is, is stamped out before it blemishes an otherwise hospitable country.

I've been Tagged - Again!

This time it's by Maisie of Our Greener Year. I've had to go to the sixth folder in my photo file and post the sixth photo. So here goes:

The dancers are from Madrid's Compania Nacional de Danza and were performing at Bristol's Harbour Festival this summer. It was a lovely sunny day and we spent some time watching them and a couple from the Martha Graham Dance Company before moving on to Queen Square where we sat on the grass eating tartiflette and listening to Beth Rowley and Sheelanagig.

I am now supposed to tag 5 others. However, seeing as I've just tagged 6 bloggers within the last 10 days, I don't want to push my luck. So, if any readers would like to take the challenge please go ahead, and let me know when you do so that I can pop over and see your photos.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

I've been Tagged!

Strawberry Jam Anne has tagged me. Apparently this means that I have to tell you six interesting things about myself and then tag six other bloggers. So here goes:
Six Interesting Things about Me
  1. 1. I am a woman with a man's name. My parents named me after one of King Arthur's knights of the round table. This has led to some amusing misunderstandings but has also enabled me to pass every foreign language aural I have ever sat, on the basis that I knew the first question the examiner would ask me!

  2. I was born in Pune (formerly Poona) in western India and spent the first eighteen years of my life there.

  3. I used to rub drains, which is the same as rubbing brasses in churches except that you do it on pavements/streets at night to avoid pedestrians. This led to some very interesting conversations with drunks on their way home from the pub!

  4. I once won the mothers' potato and spoon race at my daughters' school's sports day. I was up against a few serious runners who ran too fast and dropped their potatoes. A textbook illustration of the old adage '(very) slow and steady wins the race'.

  5. I have ridden through the jungle on the back of an elephant - a truly unforgettable experience, including the time the elephant broke wind!

  6. I have sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and through the Suez Canal - not personally, as in a yacht, but as a passenger on a liner. I have also, obviously, crossed the equator when Neptune rose from the sea and decreed that I be given an egg shampoo and thrown into the swimming pool.
Six Tags
    1. Steve Broadway at bigdaddystevieB
    2. Blue Hands at Stuff and Nonsense
    3. Alice at Crumbs...
    4. Maisie at Our Greener Year
    5. Almost Mrs Average at The Rubbish Diet
    6. Mrs Green at My Zero Waste
Just a bit of fun. I won't be at all offended if you'd rather not.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Christmas Bizarre

I spent Friday evening watching BBC Children in Need and icing biscuits for my local church's Christmas Bazaar. I've never been entirely convinced by the combination of churches and bazaars but I feel obliged to do my bit.

I popped in to the church on my way home from the shops, bought a few cakes and biscuits (mainly my own!) and had a cup of tea and a hot dog. There wasn't anything else on offer to tempt me.

If we are going to continue to hold these sales, the challenge is (and I include myself in this) to provide goods and services that are consistent with what we believe in. It's not good enough to be just another retail outlet no matter how charitable.

Do I sound like a grumpy old woman? Should churches hold bazaars? If so what should they be like?

There is a proposal that we meet once a month to make things to sell at the next bazaar. I think this is an excellent idea. It will bring people together, which is exactly what church should be about. Now we just have to decide what to make. Any ideas?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Jam & Jerusalem

Well here's something I never thought I'd write. I have joined the Women's Institute. Seriously!

A couple of weeks ago, at the Best of Bedminster Show on North Street Green, my attention was drawn to the WI stall, not by the cakes, but by the relative youth of the stall holders and the retro leaflets on the table. I signed up to receive further details and a few weeks later I was invited to attend the inaugural meeting of the Malago Institute, which is where I was earlier this evening.

There were a good number of women present, most of them in their thirties. I went with a friend and her daughter and recognised a handful of others. The meeting was very informal: an icebreaker game, a short introduction, a chance for suggestions for future meetings and the opportunity to sign up - which I did. It seems to me to be a great way to get to know other local women, have fun and make a difference to our neighbourhood - and, of course, eat cake!

It wasn't long after we moved to Bristol that I had our first daughter. The National Childbirth Trust, with its local coffee mornings and amazing secondhand clothes sales, saved me from going stir crazy, and some of the mums I met at that time are still good friends. But life's moved on and so have I, and it's time to look for new friends and new challenges, and I think the WI might be the answer.

Anyway the next meeting is at 8 pm on Wednesday 10 December at Ebeneezer Church on British Road and will have a Christmas theme.

Oh and I voted that we sing Jerusalem at our meetings!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Bristol Green

Bristol has been shortlisted in the competition to become Europe's first Green Capital in 2010. There were 35 applications and we are one of eight on the shortlist, the others being Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Freiburg, Hamburg, Munster, Oslo and Stockholm. 4 out of 5 Europeans live in cities and towns, which not only pose challenges to our environment but can also be the means of their resolution. This award is in recognition of the contribution that local government makes to achieving a sustainable balance and will be given to the city that:
  • Has a consistent record of achieving high environmental standards
  • Is committed to ongoing and ambitious goals for further environmental improvement and sustainable development
  • Can act as a role model to inspire other cities and promote best practices to all other European cities
I'm really chuffed that Bristol is the only British city to make the shortlist and I wish the Helen Holland and the council well in their efforts to go on and win the award.
According to the council website they have already made progress in the Green Capital Action Plan they launched in 2007 including:
  • the expansion of the cycling network, resulting in Bristol being chosen as the UK’s first Cycling City earlier this year, winning £11.4m of government funding with South Gloucestershire Council
  • the implementation of two ‘showcase’ bus routes and the expansion of the Park and Ride schemes
  • the introduction of a Parks and Green Spaces Strategy, which aims to improve accessibility for all as well as improving the quality of the green space. In recognition of the quality of their work, Bristol Parks this year won the Civic Trust National Green Flag Award for Blaise Castle Estate, the Downs, Queen Square and Trooper’s Hill Nature Reserve
  • the formation of the Biodiversity Action Partnership (due to be launched next week), which sets out an ambitious blueprint for the future of Bristol’s wildlife and identifies practical ways to protect and promote local flora and fauna
  • the adoption of the West of England Joint Waste Management Strategy, which will deliver significant reductions in the amount of waste being sent to landfill sites, maximise the efficient recovery of resources, and maintain a long-term commitment to increase waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting
  • a planning application submitted for two wind turbines at Avonmouth to supply up to 20% of the council’s energy needs
And I know that there's a lot of hype and that there's much more to be done besides, but Rome wasn't built in a day.
So well done Bristol!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

God Bless America!

Despite the seemingly interminable build up I am nonetheless thrilled to have witnessed this momentous event.

Sunday, 2 November 2008


Yes, I know it's rather early to be considering Christmas, although you wouldn't think so from the shops but, if I've got my act together, the October half term is the time I start to get the ball rolling. I look through cookery books and make jars of mincemeat and maybe even the cake. This year I'm going to have to maybe go a step or two further as we've decided to Do December Differently.

I love Christmas and have happy memories of celebrations as a child in India, as a student in Edinburgh and France, as a young adult in London and as a parent in Bristol. What made these occasions special was marking the birth of Christ with the community in which I lived. Sure, there were carols and lights and trees and pudding and champagne and presents, but at the heart of it were friends and family and a new life.

Recently I have become overwhelmed by the growing commercialisation of Christmas, and the pressure to organise the 'perfect' celebration has threatened to ruin the whole event. So when I came across Doing December Differently - an alternative Christmas handbook by Nicola Slee and Rosie Miles I ordered myself a copy. It promised an exploration of how to celebrate Christmas with 'integrity and simplicity' and a solution to the 'intolerable strain' and the 'false and oppressive myths of the ideal family life'. I have read the book and passed it on, having made a note of some of the suggestions it makes. I hope this Christmas will be another one I will look back on with happiness.