Autumn Fruits and Other Vegetables

London Life

The Conference season is upon us again and it’s an interesting way for the established political parties to set out their stall for the months ahead and reiterate the party slogan both to the faithful and the rest of the country.   Labour seemed desperate, but they have every right to considering the utter shambles they created for themselves over the summer months after the Brexit vote.   They are still deluded that anyone actually listens to politicans and believes what they say and still only interested in talking to each other in Westminster regardless of what goes on outside of the political bubble.   It is fair to say that Labour have now got their wish, they are completely unelectable for the foreseeable future.  Note to Jeremy Corbyn; don’t bother to put up prospective MPs in the next general election, you won’t be getting many, if any returners.

The Tories with their shiny new PM and cabinet had a chance to set out their stall for what they hope to achieve in the coming months and it all sounds bright and hopeful with lots of nice words and phrases, however the fly in the ointment is the ongoing dispute with Southern Rail which belies the true nature of the Tories and quite simply says, “business as usual”, so don’t be fooled.

For those readers living outside of the SE of England, there has been an ongoing dispute between Southern Rail who run the franchise of train services between the South Coast of the UK, so Brighton, Eastbourne, Portsmouth, Chichester and Hastings and London as well as the Brighton to Bedford Thameslink services which also go through London.

Those of us who are unfortunate enough to have to use Southern’s services in order to get to work every day understand how awful they are.  The daily delays to get to and from work are frustrating enough.  You’ve got the app on your phone, you check the services, the app assures you everything is running normally, you get to the train station the boards announce there are delays from 2 minutes, 5 minutes then going to 10-20 minutes (this is the same train, by the way), then the board announces that the train you were waiting for will arrive at the same time as the next train going to your destination which you know is a physical impossibility as two trains cannot arrive at the same platform at the same time, then the next train is also delayed after a few minutes and the train you were waiting for is cancelled.  Then the scenario is repeated but if you’re lucky the next train which is full of passengers who would have got the previous train actually bothers to make it out of Victoria and there is the possibility you may actually make it home tonight.  Whoopee.  At this point I have to stress to my readers who live outside of the UK I am talking about overground trains and not the tube, which runs beautifully, regularly.

For those readers who are not in the UK the background to this dispute is that while the UK was one of the first countries in the world to have a railway 200 years ago, there has been very little in the way of investment since, save for new carriages periodically.   This means that many rural and suburban train stations have platforms which are much the same size as when they were first built or are curved which have always necessitated a guard to be on the train in case someone tries to catch the train at the last minute and gets themselves, bags or clothing caught in the doors.   The suburban commute to work has always been an unpleasant, expensive and overcrowded experience, one to be avoided where possible and complained about frequently.

A couple of years ago Southern undertook a programme of extending platforms to accommodate longer trains, only by two carriages per train but it’s enough to ensure a small amount of space for passengers.  However some station platforms could only be extended to accommodate so many carriages so passengers are asked to disembark from the first 7 or 8 carriages.   All well and good you say, but Southern are now saying that guards on what they call “metro trains”, that is trains running from the suburbs into London, should not have guards.   Safety measures would argue otherwise.   These are the lines that need guards the most.  Notwithstanding that there are cameras placed at various points along platforms, when a driver’s attention is elsewhere (i.e. closing carriage doors and preparing to drive the train out of the station) he will be unaware of someone struggling to get on or off the train at the last minute (how many times do people gaze up from their iPhone to realise which station they are at and rush off, even when it is announced?), someone rushing onto the train at the last minute as described above?   These are situations that happen very easily and need an extra pair of eyes on board, and not all station platforms are staffed, even at peak travel times.   The key is safety.

If Teresa May thinks this is her Thatcher moment where she can discredit and get rid of the Unions she has picked the wrong fight.   I have only three words that sum up the consequences of such blinkered thinking and they are Clapham Junction 1988.  Having privatised British Rail the private companies did away with many of the usual safety practices and it was hailed as a huge success for free market thinking.   A crowded passenger train crashed into the rear of another train that had stopped at a signal, and subsequently sideswiped an empty train traveling in the other direction. 35 people died and 415 were injured.

The collision was caused by a signal failure due to a wiring fault. New wiring had been installed, but the old wiring had been left connected at one end, and loose and uninsulated at the other. An independent inquiry, chaired by Anthony Hidden, QC, found that the signalling technician responsible had not been told his working practices were wrong and his work had not been inspected by an independent person. He had also worked a seven-day week for the previous 13 weeks. Critical of the health and safety culture within British Rail at the time, Hidden’s recommendations included ensuring that work was independently inspected and that a senior project manager be made responsible for all aspects of any major, safety-critical project such as re-signalling work.

The RMT union is absolutely correct which many commuters understand and support the Union in this regard.  Unfortunately Teresa May is a small minded, blinkered, free market thinker who is trying to show who’s boss, in supporting Southern’s position in this, she may find it will cost her dearly at the ballot box.   The markets are not some panacea for common sense and respecting that people who travel on trains whether for work or leisure have the right to expect to arrive safely and in one piece.   If Teresa May has any political nous she should call in Southern’s boss and tell him to retain the guards already in place and increase station staff presence in suburban stations.  If it hits Southern’s profits, hard cheese.

The Price of Everything is Money

democracy, democratic rights, Economics, European Commission; trade agreements; environmental impact; employment rights; democracy

Is it me, or has everything shot up in price over the last few months? Around April/May I was able to afford one meal out per month on my modest salary, now I can barely make one end meet the other. I have cut back to the bone and will, in all probability not be able to pay my water bill this month.   I wonder how many other people have made similar connections in the UK or even around the world?

In the UK this phenomenon can directly be attributed to the Tories getting back into government in May as there were enough gullible people who voted Tory, and are now beginning to regret this.

Public sector workers are being made to pay for the profligacy of the bankers who are still laughing all the way to their over-inflated bank accounts.   The working poor across all sectors of society are being used as a scapegoat for all the ills of society. Those people who are unable to work through ill health are being demonised for being dependent on state benefits and help with daily living and yet instead of investing further in manufacturing and industry government has a “hands-off” approach and couldn’t give a damn. The only sector the Tory government are interested in propping up is the financial sector.

The slice of cake we all have in order to be able to live is getting smaller and smaller and we are told to make do with less and are a burden to society. I note sections of the press announced that the £100 heating allowance and the £10 Christmas bonus given to pensioners is going to be scrapped as “they’ll all be dead soon anyway and won’t be voting again” around the time of the Tory party conference didn’t even draw a murmur from commentators. I wonder whether that comment was to test the waters or whether government are seriously considering going one step further and culling anyone over the age of 65 regardless of their health.   To which my reply is as long as the Royal Family are the first to be culled in such a manner I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

In the previous 5 years public sector workers have been had to take a pay cut in real terms (1% of fuck all is still fuck all), tax credits are being cut back, tax relief on pensions is seriously being considered by Osborne (the next step is stealing pensions under the guise of a tax, it will come) the housing market is so overheated the bubble is about to burst, however I have been saying the same thing for the past 15 years, but it seems saturation point has been reached, there aren’t enough millionaires, never mind billionaires willing to buy properties at present. If they do buy to rent, when the bubble finally bursts (and it will, sooner than later) they will still be unable to recoup their losses through the rental market.   This is not a good time to buy property unless you are going to live in that property and aren’t worried about house prices.

Since 2010 MPs have awarded themselves a payrise in excess of 10% save for last year when it was “only”9%, the Queen has got a handsome raise in her allowance and a new state coach (why she can’t take the bus to open parliament I don’t know) and yet this week the EU and UK politicians have fiddled the financial figures to tell us mere mortals that inflation is at 0% – REALLY???   I have had to switch to using discounters in my weekly shop, I buy food I can prep myself, my list of “treats” has rapidly diminished and I still have difficulty in making ends meet.   Osborne has had his nose bloodied by the House of Lords for trying to cut tax credits to the working poor, yet I wonder how much MPs will award themselves this year?

If it is the case that the financial sector is the only one worth government putting any effort into, then it should be taxed so as to be able to prop up the rest of the country that either has work in other industries and the rest of society. In short, everybody should have a bigger share of the cake.   Payrises should be uniform across the board.  MPs are less skilled than many workers in the public or private sectors and certainly have no greater skills that give them the right to award themselves more money than the rest of us.

Telling the working poor they must make do with less money while the rich swan around in their limousines is totally unacceptable.   The rich have systematically stolen from working people and the most vulnerable in society and should return this with interest.  I think the time has come to discuss the prospect of not just a living wage in its proper sense of firms paying people a real salary as they did before the Tories came into government, responsible capitalism I think it’s called.   There should be a guarantee that anyone who is unable to work for whatever reason, bearing in mind there are fewer jobs around and less money to be spent in society, has a guaranteed baseline income they can live on to meet their obligations for rent, bills and so on.   At present I would say that threshold is around £30,000 per annum in the UK.   Public sector workers should also be supported as there will always be a need for these services, they are essential for the fabric of society to remain viable in all its forms.

A Vote for Common Sense – At last

democracy, democratic rights, European Commission; trade agreements; environmental impact; employment rights; democracy, General Election, London Life, trade agreement

Jeremy Corby has officially won the leadership election of the Labour Party by a whopping majority of 59.5% of the vote. Such a resounding vote puts paid to any notion of a second vote and any desperate cries of ruination of the UK firmly in the past.

Jeremy Corbyn is the right man for this time and in the Labour party.  After decades of divisive politics that have pitted one section of society against each other, men against women, rich against poor, sick against healthy, those needing the support of the state against those who can live comfortably and celebrated these divisions, Jeremy Corbyn will now show us his vision of the kind of society we can be again. The kind of society we were in the past but didn’t appreciate and I can’t wait for him to get going.

I look forward to the purge that ensues in the coming weeks & months of undercover Tories in what was the New Labour party which has now been unquestionably buried by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership election. This whole leadership campaign has shown these people for what they really are, Tories who are only interested in the Tory agenda, not the rights and protection of the working people. I’m sure they will be given a warm welcome on the tory benches but they should not be in any doubt that the real opposition has begun.   So far the Tories have had an easy ride – no longer is that the case.

I have previously written in this blog that the only kind of politics that will fire people’s bellies is one where the politicians have a vision of what the UK could really be and deliver that vision in full. What voters are utterly sick of is the double-speak.   The prose that paints one kind of picture that actually means something else entirely.

Six years ago when Cameron talked about his vision for a Britain where ordinary working people could have a share in society he meant the opposite. Those hard working people were thrown out of jobs, out of their homes, marginalised, called scroungers because they needed help. Exploited by companies who would only offer zero hours contracts on minimum wage (frequently less than minimum wage if they could get away with it). This went across occupations and trades, from a school leaver trying to get a few quid to make ends meet, to older people with families to support and also in, what have always been considered respectable professions, doctors, lawyers and so on.  This vision has been exposed for the lie it really is and yet he was voted in again because the “opposition” was nothing of the sort, Tory-lite.

Now we have a full-blooded opposition that actually means something and so many people want to see this come to fruition. I think we have turned the corner in the sick, sordid, depraved governance of our society that resides in Westminster, media and other institutions that promote the gloss and present it as reality.   I wish Jeremy Corbyn well and sincerely hope he delivers in full what he sets out to do.

I have also got to comment on the snide remarks made about Jeremy Corbyn even after such a resounding vote for him from reporters of the BBC.  It confirms that the BBC is simply the mouthpiece of the establishment and no longer deserves to be paid from licence fees.  If the BBC wants to have a future it must make its own way as other commercial stations do.  I certainly will not be adding any support to it or its employees.  The BBC promoter of child paedophiles and sordid creatures paraded as human beings.

London Markets

Food, London Life, Weekday Suppers
Since the 1970’s when successive nationalities came to London and set up their own shops and restaurants, firstly catering to others in their communities, secondly giving Londoners a taste of something different on a plate, the quality of good food has really moved up.  It really is the case that you can eat around the world without leaving London.  Lebanese, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Thai, Indian, West Indian, French, Spanish, Portugese, South American to name just a few.  The only difficulty is that if you fancy a take out, which one would you choose?Markets are the lifeblood of anywhere in the world.  When I travel abroad I try to find a local market as it gives a good impression of the people and how they live.

In London we’re blessed with markets in nearly every area, each one with a slightly different emphasis.  I’m blessed as I live near Brixton Market, I grew up near the area, I have memories of my mother taking me to shop in Brixton Market with my brother and it is colourful and vibrant.  However, what saddens me is that a good few of these are being gentrified and in so doing, lose what makes them vibrant, colourful and gives me the incentive to visit regularly.

Borough Market is a good example of this.  It started out as a wholesale market for food producers in nearby markets gardens, back in the 19th Century every district in London had a market garden growing produce for local people.  Borough Market later became a wholesale market for fruit and vegetables.  In the last year or so the redevelopment of the market has seen a huge transformation of the sellers in the market.  There are still artisan stallholders in the main part of the market, but a good part of the market usually let out to small growers/sellers has become flooded with food vendors charging exortionate prices for their fare.  The queues of people at each of these vendors makes it difficult to navigate around to the main market.

Granville Arcade in a quiet moment - not for long!  Very chi-chi

Granville Arcade in a quiet moment – not for long! Very chi-chi

Brixton Market is undergoing the same gentrification, Granville Market, one of the undercover markets is being taken up with bistros, restaurants, pizzerias and becoming very chi-chi, lots of yummy mummies and their darlings and bright young things, there is even a branch of Brindisa which is hugely expensive and the antithesis of why delicatessens were set up in the first place (see above), especially when there are well established, much cheaper delicatessens only meters away!!  In becoming so civilised it’s losing the very thing that gives the market a reason to go there – namely to hunt for a bargain, get something you wouldn’t get anywhere else for a good price.

Beautifully presented fish stall in Granville Arcade, Brixton Market

Beautifully presented fish stall in Granville Arcade, Brixton Market

Dare I say it, this is not so much ethnic cleansing, but cleansing the market of its poor, done by the same borough that closed Clapham market some 20-odd years ago because it was small, tatty and “not in keeping with councillors aspirations” for the area, only to reinstate an overpriced farmers market because the area had become dead.

Personally I’d like to have a mix of places that are cheap enough for ordinary people to go and get a good bargain in a local shop/stall and have enough interesting places for those with a bit of cash to flash to enjoy being in a vibrant area.  Sanitisation is not the answer, living together is.

what follows the night before ……

London Life, Scottish Referendum, Summer

Well it’s been more than a day after the Scottish vote for independence and sadly the Scots voted No.  Yes, I’m disappointed, but a lot of promises were made by politicians of all shades in the closing days of campaigning and they are being held to keep them, although they are wriggling out of the timing of these already.  Wales, Northern Ireland also want devolution as does England which begs the question, what relevance is Westminster now?  What relevance is the Monarchy now?  With devolution of the four countries that make up Great Britain, what is Elizabeth to be queen of?

Let’s be clear, the monarchy costs a great deal of money to keep up, they are also a very wealthy family who continue to demand more money to continue their lavish lifestyle at the expense of ordinary British families.  At a time when ordinary people have been squeezed financially for the past five years by a government that is only interested in propping up corporate businesses and the City at the expense of the good of the country, it’s probably time to say goodbye to a wasteful, profligate and increasingly irrelevant monarchy that does not help the people.

Certain newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express have with regularity written stories on the rich, famous and the royals, with the idea that their lifestyle is something to emulate, to aspire to.  In the same breath they condemn those who life their lives on benefits, whether it is because they are unemployed, sick, disabled, caring for members of their family who are themselves sick and disabled.  And there are those who are just shirkers and have no intention of working for a living.  The last group are only emulating the royals albeit on a far reduced budget than they.  Monkey see, monkey do.

Its not a healthy way for a society to be.

I realise devolution will take a while, but I hope the politicians don’t take too long over it and any more money going to Scotland comes out of politicians’ wages.   However it happens, it really is the end of the old ways of politics, time for something new.  Personally I would prefer that those who get involved in politics and aspire to office have first worked in the real world of work, got their hands dirty, so to speak and understand the concerns of those they seek to represent.  The current crop of self serving bastards need to be fed to the sharks at the London Aquarium which is only a few hundred yards from the House of Commons.  That Houses of Parliament also needs to be bulldozed as it is unfit for purpose.

Politicians have, at last realised there is a massive disquiet which will not go away now, will not be appeased by some gimmickry and a promise of jam tomorrow.  The disconnect felt for so very long has to be transformed into a tangible way in which ordinary people can engage in the political process and have ownership of what is done in our names.  Anything else just spells trouble.

 

The Scottish Question

Celebrations, London Life, Scottish Referendum, Summer

There has been a lot of debate on the Scottish Referendum whether Scotland ought to go independent after over 300 years of English domination, or stay.  It’s been interesting not least because for once the politicians have had a taste of their own medicine and have run to Scotland scared out of their wits there’ll be a “Yes” vote.

Last night I watched Channel 4 The Great British Breakup – a Live Debate which was passionate, well thought through and had many contributors on both sides.  As the programme progressed the arguments for remaining were less convincing, there was less of an argument for remaining in the UK.

The argument for voting Yes was more convincing with young people saying there is a disconnect with the government in Westminster.  I would argue that this disconnect is not just felt in Scotland, but by many people in the UK.

The problem lies in the fact that so many of the politicians have made a career out of politics, they have never worked in any other industry that wasn’t related in some way to politics.  They are mostly public school educated, went to Oxbridge and have formed a kind of bubble amongst themselves. They have removed themselves so far from the people they seek to govern they are a danger to themselves and to the rest of the country.  The British Monarchy which has long espoused values of tradition, countryside, loyalty and so on come from the same background, even a few of the politicians are related to the Monarchy in some cases.  Public school educated with no idea, bar academic, of what ordinary people have to go through.  They and their politicians are of the same ilk and feel comfortable with each other, and therein lies the danger.

The politicians of all parties have run to Scotland, garnered various supposedly influential people to warn against the dangers of an independent Scotland, not realising the politicians and royalty are a complete irrelevance to the rest of society.  One of the speakers in last night’s programme put it very eloquently.  The British Isles that were in existence 300+ years ago was a very different country to the Great Britain that exists today.  The world has changed so much with politicians in cahoots with big businesses.  corporations bleeding the country dry.

In a way I hope Scotland does vote Yes, and I’m really excited for them as they have an opportunity to create something unique for themselves, however hard it may be to start off with.  I hope they vote Yes because it will mean that politicians will have to listen to the voters, the people who put them where they are in the rest of the UK.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Wales and then Northern Ireland didn’t go it alone as well.

This leaves a wider question.  Since the 1960’s every government has sold off industry to foreign investors piece by piece.  The most flagrant was Thatcher followed by Blair and Brown.  The shower currently in goverment want to sell off the NHS and whatever else is left.  What does this country currently make that is a recognisable product across the world?  Cadbury’s was sold off and no longer exists.  British Leyland was sold off in the 1970’s, we no longer produce our own coal as Thatcher decided it was better to import than be self sufficient.  Education has been dumbed down so much its hardly worthwhile sending children to.  Degrees are, by and large worthless unless you want to enter the professions such as engineering, medicine, law or architecture.  This country is in the gutter and our Sovereign, Regina, gifted a baronetcy to Thatcher as a personal gift and attended the bitch’s funeral for setting the ball rolling.  Unforgivable.

This means when the balance sheet shows a balance of Zero we will truly struggle our way out.  Homes will be forfeit so various Dukes, Earls and other assorted bastard offspring of past monarchs can cash in under the guise of property companies while the rest of us beg for whatever small crumbs are allowed to fall from their overloaded tables.

When I wake up tomorrow I would like to see the promise of a new country for Scotland, which will reverberate around the rest of the UK and the world for many other people and that we actually get the opportunity in England to reshape the political spectrum into something where people are engaged on a daily basis in decision making, politicians realise they are there to serve US, the people; and we can have the kinds of lives where everyone can make a contribution to the sum total of the country and everyone’s lives.  Make things that can be sold or bartered to each other locally and further afield.  That’s where the future lies.  Where we have time for each other and our families because without families we have nothing.

I have said that we start our lives with family and, if we’re lucky we end our lives with family.  What happens in between is just stuff and we should just been nice to each other and contribute towards a good life for everyone.

A Londoner’s Look at the Week

London Life, Summer

In amongst the recipes that nuture us and give us enjoyment, there are times when a bit of reportage of what’s going on in daily life needs to slip in, so …

It’s been an interesting week where one of the most beloved entertainers, Rolf Harris, has been sentenced to 8 years in jail for molesting women and young girls over a 40 year period here in the UK. It then transpires he was doing the same thing in Australia. I feel sick as though my whole childhood was a lie.

Then an investigation into the long lost dossier on paedophilia within government, police, juidiciary, celebrity, media and even those working closely in royal circles first mentioned by the late Geoffrey Dickinson MP that was given to the then Home Secretary Leon Britton, himself a pederast. Well I think we can conclude what’s happened to that bit of evidence.

The stench of corruption is bad enough but THIS really is too much.

The BBC reporting has, recent years sunk to the mundane, the boring, the unimportant, suddenly in the furore of the latest round of revelations found itself reporting all sorts of interesting real news that deflected interest away from its own role in this most heinous of scandals. The fact that the BBC not only employed two of the most prolific child sex abusers, but turned a blind eye to what was going on and continued to feed the publicity that these were wholesome people who could be trusted with children is something it has not yet admitted in its own report a couple of years ago when the Jimmy Savile scandal first broke. “That was then, it’s different now”. It’s simply not good enough. How many others are also being hidden behind closed doors? How far up does it go?

MPs are the biggest cowards of all, they are so quick to tell us how we should live our lives, that we have to be accountable, but they are the least accountable of all. They are buggers, child fuckers and the most sordid of people.

The one common thread they have is they have all attended public schools. For those not familiar with the British school system, public schools are those that parents pay directly to educate their children while state schools are where everyone else sends their children.

Public schools seem to remove any notion of humanity in the children they produce, there is no compassion, no empathy, nothing one would recognise as common decency. They foster bullying, homosexuality, preying on younger children while being preyed on themselves. These are the virtues most of the newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express that encourage ordinary people to aspire to, that somehow those who attend these public schools are “better” than someone who attended their local comprehensive school. Public schools teach these children the assumption that they are born to rule over the rest of us, that life owes them, that the rest of us are vermin and to be treated as such.

Although it’s a good thing that an inquiry has been launched by the present home secretary, I think it was probably the right thing for Elizabeth Butler-Sloss to stand down. It looked just a little too cozy as her late brother was Michael Havers, Attorney General when the Dickinson dossier first broke out, and was instrumental in burying it. Highly respected as she is in her own right, heading an inquiry into this matter would not have been right.

What was also interesting was watching Norman Tebbitt, former cabinet minister in Thatcher’s government attempt to explain away why this dossier had been hidden away, that the establishment had to be protected. It seems to me that the establishment still wants to be protected, still wants this to just go away.

If anything other than a wholesale purge not just of everyone involved at that time, but of the whole lot of these sickening parasites, is recommended there will be riots in the streets and justifiably so.   No stone can be left unturned. Those who perpetrate, are complicit even if they do not take part themselves, or encourage this abuse of children need to be purged from public life forthwith and their assets removed. In fact it was very telling that shortly before this revelation David Cameron made a speech where a new law was to be introduced ensuring public institutions where ordinary people work are made accountable for any paedophilia, what was noticeable by its absence was any such accountability of those in parliament. Sad to say they really do deserve what they get.

The idea they would end up in jail sodomising each other would be just too much, I’m afraid something rather more grizzly would have to be considered.   Ritual humiliation is one possibility but I’m sure there are those who could think of more imaginative solutions.

Now that summer has arrived at long last, there is an air of lightness in how people dress, that the days are longer, warmer and the ability to enjoy what life has to offer is so much easier in some respects.  Something I like doing making up menus on a theme as I go along and lately it’s been minute steak which seems to be very much to the fore in supermarkets at present.  This is either beef or pork very thinly sliced so that it just needs to be fried for a minute on a very hot pan.  I find the best way to have this is to oil the meat, not to put oil in the pan, season both sides with salt, pepper and garlic finely sliced.  This can be served with salad, chips; or in a wrap with avocado and tomato. 

Although London is brimming with colour at the moment because of the sun my small garden is a little unkempt because I was quite ill a few weeks ago and need to do some work to it to make it tidier, I found today my redcurrent bush is brimming with beautiful, sharp, fruity jewels, my white current bush is gallantly trying it’s best to provide its share of spoils, although not yet ready for a week or so and my raspberries are already ready for picking and made a wonderful accompaniment to some saturn peaches I bought.   I love saturn peaches, or doughnuts as they’re colloquially known among greengrocers.  White flesh peaches are like pure nectar, perfumed, sweet and juicy beyond belief, if you put them together with raspberries and redcurrents and ice cream you have the best summer can offer. 

Uncategorized

A Personal View on the EU Elections 2014

Food, London Life, Polish

The results of the EU elections are now known and it seems EU citizens have become rather more than disenchanted with politicians than previously imagined.   I can undersand the disaffection in the EU as several countries have borne the brunt of austerity measures in the past 6 years, some of them quite brutal.

Politicians have to answer for this state of affairs as well, many politicians in the West have become a kind of exclusive club where they imagine only they have the answers and these are imposed upon the elctorate who are increasingly treated with contempt quite openly.  Such arrogance has a price and it was paid in the EU Elections.

Here in the UK UKIP have made some strong gains both locally and in the EU election and, although the rhetoric has been mainly against immigration (which is unfounded and been argued against vociferously) the main unease has been with growing federalism within the EU, particularly the EU US Free Trade Agreement which is so one-sided it’s tragic and should be scrapped immediately.

How things go from here can only be guessed at this point, but it’s certainly a big wake up call to the established parties that if they thought things would only go their way as always, the electorate have other ideas and change has to happen.

From a personal perspective I’ve enjoyed the recent immigration of EU nationals from the Slavic countries who have come with good intentions of working hard to make a living and earning a better life, which is no bad thing as the economy benefits all round.  One of these benefits is that there is more variety in the kind of food we eat, a better quality and even supermarkets are having to improve the kind of food they provide if they are to keep a share of the markets.   The best thing about living in London is hearing different languages being spoken in public without feeling self conscious, the open friendliness that has transpired in recent years and a realisation among other immigrants that if you come and work hard you can make something of yourself.  The mistake the indigenous people make would be to suppose that is a weakness as, if these immigrant families moved out tomorrow, the UK would collapse inside a month. 

Spring is here, the summer has started officially

Easter, Food, Summer, Uncategorized

Well here in London we have the start of the season, as it’s called, with the Chelsea Flower Show opening this week (19th May 2014) and everybody who is anyone is here.  Let’s be clear, although the Chelsea Flower Show is the Wimbledon of gardening, certainly for the gardeners who work their socks off and the great and the good (whoever they are!) for those able to get tickets its a chance to see and be seen.  I’ve been to the Chelsea Flower Show about four or five times many years ago and never seen so many posers in my life.  There was one year where it was pouring with rain and sensible people like me who dressed for the weather were outnumbered by those who dressed for the occasion (silk puffball skirts, which dates it quite firmly) who were knee deep in mud leaving their pumps caked in mud still posing!!

I digress, its also the start of spring vegetables, although I probably missed a few weeks this year due to being so ill.  If you are lucky enough to live near a greengrocer who sells spring garlic, or even if you’ve got a large flowerpot on a balcony, a bit of garden, however small I urge you to grow garlic which is very easy to grow.   In late January/February you may notice the garlic you have in your kitchen starts sprouting green shoots, if you separate the cloves and plant them in a pot or in the ground they will grow quite happily.  In fact once planted it doesn’t need much attention at all, just watering.  You can get seeds but they take a long time and a lot of gardening experience, which I don’t have.  I’m afraid I garden with my stomach in mind.  At this time of year garlic is sensational and every part of it is edible, the leaves, the stalks can be finely chopped and added to your favourite dishes in the same way you would add the garlic cloves.  As we’re entering summer I will give you my recipe for garlic butter which you can freeze to use as and when you want to add a little something extra to a dish, or it will keep for a week or so in the fridge.

3-4 garlic leaves  or 1 stem of finely chopped garlic

200g or 4oz salted butter

Good pinch of  Thyme

Good pinch of Majoram

pinch of pepper

Mix all the ingredients together well and cut a baguette diagonally spreading a bit on each slice or whatever bread you would normally use, place in an oven at gas mark 6, 1800C for 15 minutes.  The reason I use salted butter is because it is perfectly seasoned and does not need any further salt.   This is a recipe I invented myself when I was at the tender age of 8 a million years ago and have never changed in all that time.  At that time my father who, although now passed away some years ago, was impressed, although he gave me, what I can only describe as a backhanded chef’s compliment, he said it wasn’t quite how a chef would do it, but not bad for a first attempt.  I promise you that you will never eat shop bought garlic bread again.

A Frisson of Excitement

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Well things are certainly getting exciting in London at the moment as we have local elections coming up as well as the EU elections to vote for our local MEP (Member of European Parliament).   I’m afraid this is a little diversion from food in London as I’m getting quite excited by what’s happening and hope I can convey this here. 

These elections only come every few years and there are the usual parties, a few independents who stand.  This year there are a few parties who are making names for themselves in vying for votes whereby once they get to some sort of power will put forward a referendum on either remaining in the EU or leaving.  Some are putting this under the guise of preventing further immigration, which I personally think is a mistake, others are simply acting out of not liking change.  It will be interesting to see how popular these parties prove to be.   What is interesting is that now there are also a few parties of migrant communities, namely from the Slavic countries. 

This completely breaks the mould in that previous immigrants have had to battle to be accepted by the established parties who have given the odd seat over to them, but nothing major.  These parties are directly from migrant people themselves.  It’s definitely a Slavic trait that if you want to get something done, do it yourself!   I shall be supporting them in the local and EU elections and watch to see how they do. 

On the road to recovery

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One of the things about being ill is that you tend to want foods that nurture you and make you feel better.  One way I’ve found to do this effectively and goes back to my childhood is soup.  There are soups in just about every culture and country in the world, from hearty meals in a bowl, to delicate vichychoisse, gazpacho, veloute, peanut soup, miso, sobo noodle, the list goes on.  My family favourite is a simple broccoli soup that has four core ingredients which you can add to as you wish and depending on what you have available in your fridge/cupboard:

1 head of calabrese broccoli or 500g other type of broccoli

1 large carrot, cut into small batons.

1 medium onion chopped

Good stock made with either a stock from previous cooking or 2-3 good quality stock cubes

Method:

Cut the broccoli, including the stalk and any leaves which has a lot of vitamins and minerals and put into a pot of cold water with the carrot and onion.  You can also add 1-2 potatoes to make it thicker if you wish at this stage.  Add the stock or stock cubes.  If you add 3 stock cubes do not add any more salt as the stock cubes already have enough salt.  As this comes to the boil, lower the flame and allow this to simmer slowly for about 20 minutes.  At this stage you can add bacon, or chicken or pork or leave it as a vegetarian soup. 

Once all the ingredients have been cooked through thoroughly I use a stick blender to liquidise the ingredients, taking care it doesn’t splash up and burn.  I taste it and adjust the seasoning as needed adding a small teaspoon of monosodium glutamate to give body and then serve with a crusty piece of bread and/or cheese. 

I realise some people may feel uncomfortable about using monosodium glutamate but it has been given a bad press.  Like anything else if you use it to extremes it isn’t healthy, but what it does is to being a sense of roundedness and fullness to a soup.  I would counsel against using any more than a small teaspoon as it will emphasize the saltiness in a dish and give it a “soapy” taste – not good. 

Many countries such as the UK try and encourage its citizens to eat more fresh fruit & vegetables, I think this is a simple and effective way of getting a couple of portions of vegetables and you don’t feel you’re wading through loads of vegetables just to get healthy. Enjoy.