Saturday, 29 May 2010

Breakfast like a King

One of Alys Fowler's goals in The Edible Garden was to eat one meal a day from her garden. I'm not sure that I be able to do that, not this year anyway, but I would like to be able to include at least one item from it every day.

This morning I picked three radishes from our front window box which went very well with a boiled egg and several slices of Mark's rye bread for breakfast. They are, after all, called French Breakfast radishes.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

To Quilt or not to Quilt?

The Malago WI met tonight with a guest speaker, the quilter, and all round crafty person, Jane Brocket. If the word 'quilt' conjures up fiendishly intricate arrangements of flowery hexagons, then think again. Jane Brocket loves big and bold and bright. I can't reproduce any of her designs without permission, so you will have to pop over to her site to see them for yourself. A feast for the eyes on a rather damp and dreary evening.

Like all talented artists she made it sound so easy. I may even give it a go myself ... one day!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Gardening Leave

It's been a brilliant sunny weekend and I've spent most of it in the garden.

On Saturday morning I joined the Grow Zones team in Niall's garden where I helped to plant potatoes and seeds while 'the lads' chopped branches for firewood and charcoal. Niall had gathered together an unusual collection of planters, including two old suitcases, a couple of Ikea bags and a few drawers! For photographs pop over to Steve's blog.

The rest of the time has been spent in our own back garden. Most of the seeds I planted in April have germinated (I'm still waiting for a couple of tomatoes, Thai basil and chili) and the seedlings had outgrown their tiny pots. The potato plants are growing rapidly and needed earthed up. The soil's almost up to the top of the container. One more top up should do it. Alan planted the two bushes we bought last week - a gooseberry and a redcurrant. They're the first fruit bushes we've grown and I'm looking forward to crumbles and jelly later on in the year.

However it wasn't all work, work , work. We found time to drink cups of tea, test the girls on their revision, admire the poppies and spot the frogs. This morning I made a frittata with chard from our rockery and this evening we had our first barbecue.

All in all it's been a very fulfilling weekend.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

In Praise of Elections

I voted twice on my way to work this morning.  Once in the council election and once in the general.  My elder daughter, who has just turned 18, voted with me for the first time.  It took me back to my first election.  It was May 1979, I was 19 years old, the Tories won and Maggie became Prime Minister.  And, in case you were wondering, there is absolutely no correlation between the two!

Despite those depressing election nights during the long reign of the Tories, I love polling day.  We live just round the corner from our polling station, and the sight of people walking down our road, clutching their polling cards in their hands, never fails to gladden my heart.  There are young people on their way to, or from work, mothers pushing buggies with toddlers in tow, elderly couples holding hands.  All of them on their way to exercise their right to chose the government that will determine so much of their lives over the next few years.  Marvellous!  And I've heard all the arguments about the unfairness of the voting system, the corruption of the political classes, the lack of any real difference between the major parties, the enormous power wielded by multinational corporations over which we have no control etc.  There's truth in all of them.  However I refuse to let it dampen my enthusiasm for a system that allows one person one vote, no matter who they are, where they live, how much they earn or what they believe.

Since I cast my first vote way back in 1979 (for the SNP, by the way!) I've always voted, with one unforgettable exception.  It was a local election during my time at university.  It had been a busy day, I was tired and I hadn't followed the campaign closely enough to have any strong preference for any of the candidates.  Big mistake!  When got home, the wife of the family I lodged with, asked me whether I'd voted.  I had to admit that I hadn't, whereupon, lovely woman that she was, she tore into me, reminding me of the sacrifices women had made to win me this right and accusing me of having betrayed their efforts.  I have faithfully voted in every election since!

My other lasting memory of elections is lying in bed listening to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme's coverage of the South African elections.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I heard Brian Redhead interview old women who had walked for miles and waited days in the queue to vote for the very first time in their lives.  We really don't how lucky we are.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Bristol Against Sainsburys Insane Colossal Superstore

Those of you who live in South Bristol probably already know all about this proposal but, for those of you who dont:-

Bristol City Football Club wish to relocate their stadium to a greenbelt site just outside Bristol. To finance this move they need to sell their old ground. Sainsburys have offered them a substantial sum and have submitted a proposal to build a new 9,300 sq m superstore, with an 850 space car park, on the site. This will replace their existing store half a mile down the road.

There is strong opposition to this proposal and I have today submitted my objection online, the text of which I reproduce below.

I would like to submit my objection to the proposal, for the following reasons:

1 The construction of a superstore at Ashton Gate will have a detrimental effect on the local environment.

Sainsburys move from Winterstoke Road to Ashton Gate is being billed as a relocation but is much more than just that. The store will almost double in size, and will increase and expand the range of goods for sale. It will not be the kind of store local residents will pop in to for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread. Shoppers will be drawn from much further afield, and the majority of them will arrive by car. Why else the need for such a vast car park? Winterstoke Road is already congested and will become infinitely more so, while the streets surrounding the store will be used by drivers attempting to avoid the main roads. Increased levels of traffic will lead to increased levels of air pollution in a largely residential area, and along routes used by children walking to school. Tankers delivering petrol, lorries supplying goods and vans servicing the home delivery service will ensure an almost constant stream of traffic throughout the day and beyond. Noise and light pollution will affect those living in close proximity to the store. Granted they experience both from the football stadium, but no more than a couple of nights a week. The superstore will be an almost 24 hour presence.

All this in a city whose council is promoting the 10:10 campaign.

Much is made of the green credentials of the new building but these will be more than outweighed by the increased carbon emissions from the vehicular transport it engenders.

2 The presence of a superstore at Ashton Gate will pose a completely unnecessary and unfair threat to local retail.

Bedminster offers a wide range of stores from supermarkets through high street chains to family run businesses. We already have two large supermarkets (Asda and Sainsburys), several smaller ones (two Tescos, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland) and an extensive range of other food and non-food retailers. We did not need a Tesco superstore, nor do we need a bigger and better Sainsburys. Relocating this new store from the other side of Winterstoke Road to within a couple of hundred yards of North Street will almost certainly have a detrimental effect on local traders. The claim that the move will stimulate local trade is ludicrous. Shoppers arriving by car, parking in the car park, loading their boots with Sainsburys goods and filling their tanks at the petrol station are not going to stop off in North Street on their way home for a pound of mince, a box of matches or a packet of paracetamol. The new Sainsburys superstore is specifically designed to satisfy their every requirement and sales in local high streets areas will fall as a result.

Although some distance removed, Asda may very well be affected and, with it, the shops in East Street. An expansion of this magnitude suggests that Sainsburys will be hoping to attract customers from all over South Bristol, depriving areas such as Knowle, Brislington and Long Ashton of their custom.

This is a disaster, not just for the local traders, who will lose their income and possibly their jobs, but also for sustainable community. Local trading is a far better option than its supermarket equivalent. Goods are more likely to be locally sourced or produced. They are not transported hundreds of miles to and from central distribution centres. They are generally less packaged. They are sold by shopkeepers who know their wares and are able to respond to public demand. They provide continuity, inspire loyalty and offer a personal service that binds the community together.

A greater percentage of every pound spent in local businesses remains in the local community than for every pound spent in a supermarket. To opt for a superstore over local retail at a time when governments, both national and local, should be seeking solutions to an oil dependent society, is very short-sighted. And to choose to demolish a perfectly adequate building in order to build a brand new larger one half a mile down the road, when we are all being urged to reduce our carbon footprints to save the planet, is suicidal.

3 This is not the only, let alone the best, solution to the problem.

I would rather the club remained at Ashton Gate, in the heart of the community that supports it, than chase after illusory fame and fortune. I certainly do not approve of the construction of a stadium on a green field site. However, if the club is determined to move and dispose of its existing ground, then I suggest there are worthier legacies it could leave to Bedminster than a monstrous box straddling a concrete car park.

A mixed development of housing and small businesses would be an ideal alternative. Sainsburys proposes a housing development on the Winterstoke Road site. This is the wrong way round. Houses on the Winterstoke Road ‘island’ will be isolated, cut off from the services of Bedminster by a congested road struggling to cope with its increased load. Ashton Vale residents will lose the only food retailer they have and will now also have to negotiate Winterstoke Road to do their shopping. Meanwhile a new Sainsburys will pose a threat to a thriving high street, where a housing development would benefit from all the services its residents desired.

We are told that Bristol City Football Club cannot fund the move without the price Sainsburys will pay for the Ashton Gate site, but are not reassured that the club have exhausted all other possibilities. I feel we are being emotionally blackmailed by the, as yet unconfirmed, prospect of hosting a couple of World Cup matches. It is much easier to back popular short term projects, especially in the run up to an election. It is much harder, but ultimately more honourable, to take the long view and chose the one that will be of lasting benefit to the community. I am hoping that you will take just such a decision in this matter.

My submission is short on facts and figures, although I have listened to and read a good deal of arguments on both sides. I am relying on your having read and digested these for yourselves. This is my personal submission as someone who has lived and worked and raised two daughters in Bedminster, who loves its thriving community and who fears for its future should Sainsburys be granted permission to build this superstore.

A previous application for a Tesco store was withdrawn on the eve of the planning committee meeting. I wonder what will happen this time.