Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Spooks in the USA

Okay, so the press are having a great time because Anna Chapman is more Russian minx than matron.  But one thing is clear: she's no Ros Miers either...

For the record, quite a lot of 'Spooks' is filmed nearby since the production company is Bermondsey based and BM has encountered the formidable Ros more than once. I'll say one thing; she gets a lot of wear out of that leather jacket...

London Assurance....a review

My admiration (possibly small crush) for Fiona Shaw has been mentioned before.  Granny, who is a dynamic pensioner and theatre afficionado, saw London Assurance last week and enjoyed it very much.  She then went on to read my Normblog profile and being a generous sort, queued and booked tickets at some ungodly hour yesterday so that BM could attend the last night  - last night.  

Readers, what can I add to the plaudits afforded by much more eminent reviewers?  Not much except to say that it was a complete HAMFEST of the best kind!  FS and Simon Russell Beale were clearly having a blast and Richard Briers was terrific as the mild-mannered, Adophus 'Dolly' Spanker.   Maybe it had something to do with it being the final performance I suppose, but all of them seemed to throw caution to the wind and in final few scenes, displayed some energetic dance moves.

But back to FS & SRB, both of whom in their turn made their characters sexually ambivalent with hilarious consequences.  I was not familiar with the playwright, Boucicoult prior to last night but now understand why he was a star in his day.  One can easily imagine this playing to rowdy, raucous 19th century playhouses.  

Loved it, love them, a good night out!

(Picture:Tristram Kenton)

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A mood for change

Reading Steve Richards in today's Independent, I am struck by however legitimate his argument, he rather misses the point - which as I see it, is this:  people, and I mean the electorate, were broadly voting for change.  Not outright, 'there you go, have a majority' sort of change but change nevertheless.   I suppose his most valid argument is whether people realised that this, ie. a deficit cutting government, is what they were voting for.  He's right to say that none of the main parties spelled out in any detail how they would tackle the deficit, although all talked about tough times ahead etc but then manifestos are only ever aspirational, not promises.   

I suspect although I have no evidence for this, simply a hunch, that most people read between the lines and had some sense of what was coming.  The IFS suggested pre-Election that Labour plans would mean an effective 20% or thereabouts cut to public services if Health and DFID were to be ring-fenced.

Overriding all of this of course, is the issue of our democracy.  It's not a true democracy in that everyone has a say in the decisions made - instead we have a form of representative democracy, whereby we elect representatives to make those decisions on our behalf.  We do not expect to be consulted about every decision - that's their job (which always bothers me when politicians talk about increasing the number of referendums.  Unless it's a constitutional issue, my feeling is that we elected them to make the decisions so get on with it! ). 

So although I believe that Steve Richards is right to raise the issue of whether the Coalition has a mandate for the measures they are about to introduce,  I disagree with his final analysis.   I doubt that any sentient adult who voted at on May 6th could have been unaware that cuts were coming, whoever emerged as the winning party.  Furthermore, the general cynicism which greets most pronouncements from politicians of all stripes, leads me to believe that people made up their own minds about what was needed and voted accordingly.

Democracy, eh ?  The least worst option when compared with all the others.  Someone famous said that once.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Southwark Circle

Almost a year ago, I picked up a leaflet full of recipe ideas at the Bermondsey Street Festival, which had been produced by Southwark Circle, a membership organisation open to anyone living in Southwark over the age of 50.  Members get help with life's practical tasks, as and when they need it from a network of handy, local people called Neighbourhood Helpers who are CRB and reference checked. 

Anyway, I read today Madeleine Bunting's interesting article on welfare reform on the Guardian's Comment is Free site, highlighting the work done by Southwark Circle as a model of what good, thoughtful 'win,win' reform can look like.  

Contrast this article and the generally positive tone, with that of Diane Abbott's responding to a suggestion, that the unemployed might be encouraged to move to areas where work is available provided their social housing was also portable.   There's no question that she raises many issues which would make such a move unattractive to those affected.  But surely that cannot be a reason for not even considering it.  As Madeleine Bunting notes in relation to the Labour government:-

" its instincts were too closely bound up with using the state as the instrument to deliver services. But the consequences are that the "service user" becomes passive. If services are restricted, they have to exaggerate need to qualify, locking them into what can often be demoralising dependency".

Clearly the Labour government had run out of ideas but it's a bit depressing to note that none of the leadership contenders are offering anything fresh or at least are prepared to say it at this stage.

Surely innovation is what is required in order for those who are in need to receive the type of service they are entitled to.  One of the partners involved in the development of Southwark Circle is an organisation called Participle, also based in Tanner Street, Bermondsey.  They have set out their vision for 21st century public services in what they call Beveridge 4.0.

"Changes in society, demographics, lifestyle and availability of resources, have left us with services that are out of step with modern Britain. We need to stop patching and mending institutions and services designed for another era, the time has come to create something new. A radical new vision for our public services is required. 
We call our vision Beveridge 4.0."

Once again, Southwark leads the way. 

Oh, and what's that I hear you ask ?  Who was in charge when this innovative project was conceived and developed .....?  

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Absent friends

Did I mention that Kyle has now returned to Australia?  We all miss him but perhaps especially J who has emailed him almost every day, including today photos of her tap-dancing display at the school fete yesterday.  Kyle if you're reading this in Sydney, your t-shirt is ready and will be on its way to you on Monday. 

O had the rather inspired idea of printing Kyle's Mii picture onto a t-shirt but it takes a bit longer than we anticipated hence the delay.  Anyone curious about the real Kyle Taylor can check out his website but in the meantime, here is the Mii version.

Friday, 25 June 2010

An announcement!

Norm Geras whom I admire and am more than a bit in awe of, blogs at Normblog.  He does a weekly profile of other bloggers and today it!

Thank you Norm and welcome to any newcomers who came via the profile. 

Busy day today so there will now be a short break and normal blogging will resume later this evening.

The Fete at Bermondsey

By Joris Hofnagel c1569.  Click on the picture for a full view.

Yes, BM is not in costume but has been busy at the oven and will be selling her wares and that of others later today at the childrens' school Fete with other stalwarts of the PTA.   Hope it's as jolly as the scene above and at the very least, our weather today is better!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Where does charity begin or end?

BM attended an open meeting organised by a long-established (650 years) local charity yesterday, at which they shared the welcome news that they are now in a position to start distributing grants to worthy causes again, having been preoccupied with other matters for the past few years.   It's a sign of the general anxiety being felt that on a day when England were playing and the weather was suddenly Summer-y, the attendance at this meeting which ran from 3-5, was beyond what the charity had anticipated.

Several things stuck in my mind from the session.  Firstly a great deal of good work is being done by small groups, associations and the smaller local charities who now fear for their very existence.  Secondly, is it possible that some of them duplicate other services on offer from the local authority and thirdly, for the charity running the session, how do they establish in deciding which grant applications to approve that they are not funding duplicate projects?   (I have no answers, just questions).

The other interesting snippet (gleaned via a presentation given by Kids Company) was that several City firms seem to be ramping up their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) time, offering in some cases, 5 CSR days per annum in addition to annual leave  to staff.   Clearly at a strategic level, the bigger firms understand what the 'Big Society' concept means and are showing willing.    The local Southwark Volunteer Centre, which handles these offers and brokers time for projects in need,  is experiencing a surge in offers of CSR time.  The sceptic in me assumes this must mean that it's tax deductible, but you can't look a gift horse etc.

Overall the session was a useful reminder of just how complex our 'society' is with statutory services supported by so many varied volunteer groups.  Again, while one can't deny that problems exist which is why many of these groups were formed, I didn't and don't believe that our society is 'broken' in the way some would have you believe.

The Tempest ? More like storm in a teacup

B husband and I saw Sam Mendes' new production of 'The Tempest' last night at the Old Vic.  It and 'As you like it' are the touring productions of his Bridge Project for 2010.  'As you like it' played earlier in the day with 'The Tempest' following in the evening at 7pm (earlier than usual to give the reviewers time to file for the morning papers it seems).

I have explained before my reluctance about theatre (unless it involved Mark Rylance...) but I really wanted to like this production because Stephen Dillane plays Prospero and although I have only seen him once before in Peter Brooks production of Hamlet, I recalled that he was very good, in an intense and mesmeric way.   Perfect for Prospero I thought  - except that he wasn't and for the play to work, even from my relative ignorance, Prospero has to command, which he didn't.

In conversation afterwards, I was relieved to hear others saying the same things, not least that we could barely hear him speak.  It all seemed a bit quiet and flat - not quite a tempest then. 

BM's eldest child played Prospero in a school production last Autumn (aged 9) and on balance, all of the things which they got right (the fury of the storm, the spookiness of the island, the joy of the reunion) were missing last night.   Disappointing but there it is.  

Oh, and because there was no interval (don't know why) there was no proper opportunity to do a bit of people watching, because of course the place was full of famous faces (apart from us).  Had to content myself with a close-up of Kevin Spacey who was easily recognisable but many others, whose faces were familiar, I would have needed more time to put a name to. 

On the plus side, it was still daylight when we emerged and we were home by 9.45pm!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

What's upset Adam Boulton now?

His recent, very public, row with Alastair Campbell was a Youtube hit.  Now it seems he is irritated by Mary Beard, Cambridge Classics Don and the London Review of Books.


Sometimes, it's all so predictable...the Budget has been touted for weeks in advance as 'tough'.  Before the election the Institute for Fiscal Studies costed all manifestoes and confirmed that all parties would have to make deep spending cuts to balance the books - cuts which none of them were willing to spell out before May 6th.  So far, only half of the equation is known to us ie the welfare cuts and tax rises.  The real pain will come when the spending review is concluded in the Autumn and it becomes clear where the axe will fall, given that Health and DFID are protected. 

I think we all know that things have got to change.  The private sector is no longer large enough to pay for the public services we currently enjoy, so the balance needs to be re-set.   Everyone of every political stripe recognises this and their response to the Budget yesterday, I think we saw the same old, disingenuous posturing from all of the opposition parties (secretly probably relieved not to have to deliver this budget).    

I'm reminded of something James Meek wrote in the London Review of Books a couple of weeks ago about the conspiracy "which prevails in modern Western democracies between voters and the governments they elect: we, the voters will get to blame you for problems that are actually ours, and in return we will allow you, the government, to pretend that you are steering the country, like a helmsman steering a ship when you can't."

Meanwhile, so much for 'new politics'.  As James Meek concluded, democracy needs reinvention and with so much else going on, how likely is that to happen?  On the other hand, can we afford for it not to ? 

These and other troublesome issues make BM sigh.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Pre-Budget nerves

News of some of the measures due to be announced tomorrow have been gradually leaking out and speculation simply adds to the anxiety for BM who worries on behalf of the schools she is responsible for.   Cuts in year to higher education, which have been highlighted over at Normblog are beginning to take effect, with whole departments being cut in some instances.  Locally, a friend whose husband works as a lecturer at City of Westminster, is worried because his contract has just been re-written offering him £2,000 per annum less with more responsibility or he can take redundancy and several secondary schools which had followed the then DCSF guidance and offered Diplomas as an alternative to GCSE/A Level have had to give staff notice overnight, as that funding has been cut in-year as part of the £6bn savings announced by George Osborne 2 weeks ago.

That earlier 'mini-budget' included cuts to local authorities early years improvement work with private, independent and voluntary sector daycare and early years providers, which will come to an abrupt end.  That alone makes BM nervous about the commitment to Surestart and Early Years provision in general.    If I thought that any of these cuts were driven by evidence based research which showed that the services provided were inefficient or ineffective, I would be less worried but that is palpably not the case.

Whilst I have great sympathy for third level educators, all of the research evidence shows that that is the most expensive sector in education.  If one thinks of the funding of 0-19 education as a pyramid, it is inverted in that the bulk of the spending occurs from age 12 upwards and yet, this is in direct contrast to the research which shows that funding of the Early Years is crucial to success in later education and life chances generally. 

Early Years education is complex, dealing as it does with issues such as behaviour management as well as early appreciation and development of literacy, numeracy, science and physical development.  The success of early years intervention is not easily measured and certainly not in the short-term which makes it an easy target.  To someone not familiar with the sector and the research, it just looks like expensive childcare. 

Will the Budget display an evidence-based approach to the distribution and allocation of cuts ?  We will get our answer tomorrow.  


Weekend in Rye

Some time ago, possibly February, when she realised that Friday 19th June was an INSET/day off school BM suggested a little weekend away for all the family and after some research, bearing in mind she is the motorist in the family, we settled on Rye in Sussex.  Lots of interesting historical places to see, bookshops to visit, olde worlde streets, castle turrets and a beach at Camber nearby. 

This is a picture of Mermaid Street which dates back to the 16th century.

So off we went on Friday morning, car packed as if we were leaving for a fortnight prepared for every eventuality and just as well too.  Rye and Camber did not disappoint but predictably enough, the weather was our biggest challenge and we spent the weekend chasing sunny spells and avoiding thundery downpours.  The only disappointment in fact was leaving the beach (pictured below) and cutting short our kite-flying to return to the accommodation in time to watch the England game on Friday evening...we should have stayed at the beach.

B husband may mock BM and her Thermos flask of coffee, sandwiches in foil etc but what the picture doesn't tell you is just how cold it was - fleece and coat cold, so the instant picnic was very welcome.   

The other forgotten consequence of a day spent walking the beach whilst leaning against the wind is utter exhaustion so that the children slept soundly without argument both nights, although BM was more or less ready for sleep at around the same time. 

Lots of things we didn't do this time but that means that there's plenty more to look forward to for another visit and it's close enough for a day trip!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

In praise of...Thomas Heatherwick, Architect

So a couple of weeks ago, catching up with my friend Pat she mentioned that she had just returned from the Expo in Shanghai, where she had been supporting her friend Thomas Heatherwick, who designed the UK Pavilion. Have only just got round to doing a little internet snooping about the Expo, since I am prepared to accept that there may have been extensive media coverage of it here but I could have missed it due to Election 2010 etc.

It is staggering !

This is it - not a mirage, it's an actual construction but it looks ethereal, almost as if it appeared on the horizon and couldn't possibly have been constructed.   The full details of the project are here but for now consider this:-

"The Seed Cathedral is a platform to show the work of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew and their Millennium Seedbank. In the circulation zone under the landscape that surrounds the Seed Cathedral a series of installations explore in more detail the particularity of nature and UK cities.

The Seed Cathedral is a 20-metre high building, constructed from 60,000 transparent 7.5-metre long optical strands, each of which has embedded within its tip a seed. The interior is silent and illuminated only by the daylight that has filtered past each seed through each optical hair; a quiet space in which to contemplate this formidable collection of the world’s botanical resources."

I URGE and IMPLORE you to visit the website via the link above, where in addition to further details and an amazing video of the Seed Cathedral ( which I think looks like a huge dandelion seed) with the long optical strands shimmering and looking breathtakingly beautiful, there are other photos of his work including this:

The East Beach Cafe in Littlehampton (picture: Andy Stagg)

And this Bermondsey connection

Cladding around Boiler Unit at Guy's Hospital

I love it when people look at the world differently and somehow conjure up the impossible.  I'm not saying that all modern design or architecture is wonderful but doesn't this make you stop and gaze and smile ?  And these places are all functional.

So I have now checked Google again and you have to search quite hard to find much UK media coverage of this astonishing example of the best of British, attracting more visitors than any other at the Expo.   It turns out that I didn't miss the coverage during Election '10 ...because there wasn't any worth mentioning.

My little blog is unlikely to make a difference but come on, there are so many reasons to be worried and gloomy and cynical but this is an example of something fearless and an achievement of the seemingly impossible so BE PROUD! 

Someone like you

The 'North'

With all of the media coverage surrounding the publication of the Saville Report, I have been surprised by the lack of historical context provided in the coverage, particularly to the existence of a civil rights movement in Northern Ireland at that time.    It's so easy now, 16 years or so after the first IRA ceasefire and well into the Peace Process, to forget what happened in that corner of Ireland and part of the UK and it surprised me (although perhaps it shouldn't) that even a fairly recent politics graduate had no knowledge of the issues (other than internment) which led to the formation of the civil rights movement and the marches which followed.

Events in 'The North' cast a shadow over my childhood in rural western Ireland.  We did not own a TV until I was 11 (just to be clear, 1977) but our 'wireless' news was dominated by events over the Border and while the coverage was probably biased in favour of the Catholic minority, we were left in no doubt of the many injustices they suffered in terms of housing allocation, inability to vote, gerrymandering of constituencies etc. 

Because it's complex, it's sometimes too easy to write off the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland as being some sort of historical dispute dating back to 1690 and beyond...but the events which led to the Bloody Sunday shootings and long aftermath, took place within my lifetime. 

Reconciliation, in my view is only possible where there is a real and meaningful understanding of the suffering of both parties involved and maybe the publication of the Saville Report yesterday and the reaction to it, has helped everyone move a bit closer towards that goal.

Choosing a book

Book group met on Monday evening but sadly, due to a diary mess-up with B husband, BM could not attend.   As happens sometimes, the meeting broke up without an agreement about what's next on the reading list.  Yesterday, following discussion by email we settled on 'Netherland' by Joseph O'Neill, a book beloved by everyone I know who has already read it. 

In discussion of what to read next, I was reminded of something I read once, possibly by a wine expert, that when looking at prize-winners, it's often best to go for the 2nd prize-winner as opposed to the 1st: the rationale being that the winner is often (but not always) a compromise whereas 2nd & 3rd will have been passionately supported/loved by some judges.  

This arose because one of the Bermondsey readers suggested Barbara Kingsolver's Orange Prize-winning book 'The Lacuna' but like the wise and wonderful Norman Geras, I have to admit I was surprised to hear of Kingsolver's win.   If you follow the link, you will see that Norman has good reason to suspect that the Orange prize judges may not simply have chosen the winner because they believed it to be the best in show.

Full disclosure - I have read none of the shortlisted titles, but once again B husband (yes, he reads a lot) had read and admired 'Wolf Hall' (indeed has pressed BM to suggest it or 'A Place of Greater Safety' to the book group) and of course it won the Booker Prize.    (Does that defeat the hypothesis  set out above ?  Oops... )

Monday, 14 June 2010

The People's Supermarket

Visiting Granny last week, she sent a text to ask us to come and join her in the 'shop' so we went along to Lamb's Conduit Street, and there she was behind the counter of The People's Supermarket.   It's the brainchild of Arthur Potts Dawson, the Chef at  Acorn House restaurant on Gray's Inn Road and he borrowed the idea from the first community co-operative style supermarket which is in Brooklyn, New York.   The project has been followed by Channel 4 and a documentary is due to be screened in the Autumn.

From our quick nose around, I could see that although it was early days (they had only been open 6 days at the time) it looked really promising.  Lovely breads and patisserie and a wide range of normal groceries.  No cigarettes (ethical element, you see) and so far, no newspapers but that's due to contracts with distributors apparently.

There's quite an active community spirit around that area anyway but it has stiff competition in Waitrose at the Brunswick Centre nearby.  Sadly it's too far from Bermondsey for our twice weekly shop but from now on, trips to Coram's Fields will include a visit to Granny's shop.

Bermondsey Carnival

BM and family had a lovely afternoon on Saturday in Southwark Park.  The reminiscence project run by the Friends of Southwark Park was really interesting and I have been trying to find out whether there is a permanent link to it online.  The video presentation with stories from Blitz survivors and older residents with their memories of the park were interspersed with photographs of VE day celebrations in Thornburn Square and surroundings and were very moving.  I can't believe they will simply archive it, so updates and links to follow as I discover more.

There were lots of stalls commemorating the Blitz spirit (dancing, grow your own veg etc) and J was thrilled that she got a photograph of Barnaby Bear (ours for the weekend) wearing a gas mask.

Also enjoyed the food, old fashioned funfair (although it seemed to be more expensive this year) and of course the entertainment.  Special shout out to Nigel of Bermondsey for the whole set but especially the terrific singalong with the Pearly King! 

Although we didn't stay for all of the acts, we did catch some of Stacey Solomon's act.  She has a powerful voice and I sincerely hope she goes on to great things.  Speaking in between songs, she reminded me a little of a female Frank Spencer but she has a certain naive charm which seems entirely natural.   Small confession, we voted for her on the last series of X-Factor - our first season watching it and we were completely sucked in!


Sarah Bernhardt in bloom in BM's garden

Friday, 11 June 2010

Co Mayo in the Saatchi Gallery !

Was idly browsing and gazing at these places, close to where I grew up  

This is Pontoon with Nephin mountain in the background

Knockmore looking onto Lough Conn

Lahardane, other side of the lake

Delphi Lodge, near Westport

and finally Kylemore Abbey, in Leenane past Westport on the long (slow) road to Galway and heading into Connemara

So, having browsed these lovely images, I came upon a link to The Saatchi Online Gallery, and Sylvia Spain Vaugh who paints these lovely images from the area around Foxford, Lough Conn and Knockmore.  

Scurrilous gossip!

via Iain Dale

"Wayne David MP (Labour) found himself last week in a lift in Portcullis House with Diane Abbott. There was a short silence until...
Wayne: So aren't you going to lobby me, then?
Diane: How long have you been an MP?
Wayne: Nine years.
Diane: And have I ever spoken to you in that time?
Wayne: No.
Diane: So why would I start now?

And she wondered why she had difficulty in getting 33 nominations..."

It's not me - it's the tablets!

Hypercholesterolaemia runs in BM's family and therefore despite dietary efforts over a couple of years to reduce the level, BM's stubbornly refused to move down.  Enter the statins just over 9 months ago and hey presto - BM is almost normal!

Except that what with the near death experience over Christmas/New Year followed by some very strange episodes of memory loss, I had begun to think that I was also beginning to lose my marbles (I probably am but not as bad as I had feared) and the prospect was a little frightening.   To give you an example, on the day of my god-daughter's 6th birthday party, I went about my usual Saturday which that day involved election stuff as well as the normal round of Saturday morning swimming lessons for children etc and it wasn't until my best friend rang at 5.30pm to check I wasn't lying dead somewhere and asked why we hadn't come to the party that I even thought of it!!!  Apart from the shame and embarrassment it was scary - because I had put it in the diary, on the wall calendar so it wasn't like I didn't know about it.  So what happened ?

Well it turns out that a side-effect of taking the drugs to sort out the cholesterol is memory loss...and in America where this is recognised, the drug company which developed statins (Merck) recommend that it is prescribed with Co-enzymeQ10 - a vitamin supplement.   And I found this out in this Times article.  Online...Thank God for the internet!

Now if I could just remember where I put the kids Nintendo DSs (a very safe place!)  everything would be all right.

May I have your attention please ?

And draw it to the following lovely places in the blogosphere, simply for the pleasure of gazing at beautiful things:-

1.  The Bottom of the Ironing Basket

Here are some samples, borrowed from the site

So now, I can add shed envy, to the list of things which browsing the inter-tubes can cause...

and after

3 And finally because I have not yet been to see SATC 2
SJP wearing a Vivienne Westwood number at the premiere in Japan - not many people could pull this off but I think she does it fabulously !

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Looking out to the universe/The inflatable space station

Seriously, not a joke.  Sagan's Brain is a fascinating blog I discovered recently and this post makes you think that sometimes, science really is stranger than fiction.

What makes us happy ?

Dan Gilbert, a Harvard Psychologist, says it may not be what we think.

David Laws - in his own words

From his constituency blog

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Source featuring Candi Station

From 1991 - for Kyle and Adidi - clubbing before Florence and the Machine.

Never knowingly under-dressed

I can't be the only one to suffer from this condition ie  I can do formal work clothes, slob about the house clothes, pick up the children and go to the park clothes but don't really understand  'smart casual' (bit of an oxymoron really).  Which means I usually err on the side of safety and go for smart as opposed to casual.  With the result that I can on occasion turn up to an event rather 'overdressed'. 

So it turns out I share something in common with Pauline Prescott - now there's a sentence I never thought I would write!

They also serve

Some people have emailed to ask if I am all right on the grounds that the Milton poem posted a couple of days ago was a little 'bleak'.  I'm fine actually, and funny enough I find the poem quite reassuring, in a period where I am questioning my place in the world during a period of change for the family.  

I think it's hard in the modern world to live a quiet life and feel that it also matters if that makes sense.  In an internet age, it's so easy to see myriad examples of other people leading what appear to be hectic, fulfilled if challenging lives, whereas my own feels more like life in the slow lane with occasional bursts of speed to the fast lane.  But I suppose I quite like it like that.    I used to think that my life would be quite linear, school, college, job, career, meet suitable man, continue career with kids etc.  Except it hasn't worked out like that and at times I find myself wondering whether I am 'wasting' all that time and effort spent studying and gaining a professional qualification.  On balance, I don't really believe that this is the case - all of our experience up to now makes us what we are and we use that knowledge one way or another in our everyday lives.

So although I can't claim to be in the same category as Milton (prematurely blind), my own talents are in use but perhaps in a quieter, less dramatic way, which is why the poem resonated.

Monday, 7 June 2010

A poem for today

Sonnet XIX:    

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."

John Milton

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Sunday markets

It's years since I last walked through East London on a Sunday morning so when our friend Kyle suggested a guided tour last week, everyone in BM's household was enthusiastic.  We got the 78 over to Aldgate and then walked up Petticoat Lane (sorry no photo!) first.  O was initially a bit reluctant since like most 9 year old boys, he doesn't 'get' shopping of any kind, let alone browsing.  However, never one to miss a Doctor Who opportunity, he quickly spotted that he might be able to pick up a tweed jacket from one of the secondhand/vintage stalls and shops and brightened considerably as we went on.
Next stop was Spittalfields which was a revelation to me since I had not been there since the renovation. (All of the photos which follow come from East London guide websites, since I forgot to take our camera along...hopeless, I know!)

BM was very impressed and Kyle our expert guide, remarked that it had expanded even since he lived in the area up until June last year.  The children loved one of the stalls which sold small packs of hard pellets which absorb water and expand to become mini-balloons, which you can use in a vase.   The market is open all day Sunday now instead of just the morning although, we found that whilst it was comfortable to get around at 11ish when we arrived, it was much busier later on at 3.30pm on our way back.

Next, Kyle guided us through the streets along to 

More rooting around vintage shops and O found a very smart hat, which the initials 'H K' inside.  Wonder who he was ?  Had a delicious bagel from the Beigel Shop and Granny joined us.  From there we walked on to Colombia Road Flower market.

BM found a replacement for her prize dahlia 'Bishop of Llandraff' which perished in the sub-zero temperatures over Winter.  Small quibble  - why would anyone wish to walk down the centre of Colombia Road pushing a bike with panniers, when it's quite possible to do so along the pavement either side?  
 J was fascinated by the flower mosaics on the wall made by children at the local Primary school.

And then it was time for a drink and some lunch so we had a treat back at Spittalfields in a cafe called 'The Luxe'.

From there it was but a short hop to the bus stop and the 78 home again.  Perfect day really.
So, for having the idea in the first place, talking and walking us through it, not to mention carrying J some of the time on your shoulders, a big Thank You to Kyle!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

A sultry afternoon at the Waldorf

My best friend has multiple sclerosis diagnosed ,I realised today, 13 years ago.  Over the years she has endured a great deal, heroically in my view, when I know that I would have retreated in ever decreasing circles to safety and comfort.   So anyway, this is only by way of background to explain that when she told me that she and my god-daughter, as well as her husband and friend/helper were coming to town today to see a matinee production of Cinderella at the Royal Opera House, I thought I would take my daughter along to meet them afterwards.  Our girls are the same age and love spending time together. 

Central London bars and restaurants do not invite, indeed positively discourage, the less able-bodied into their having wandered along Drury Lane for a few minutes feeling increasingly depressed about our options, my friend had an inspired idea and suggested the lobby of the Waldorf (pictured below).

Out of the sultry London heat, we were conveyed by a lovely doorman to the air-conditioned lobby seating area, within easy reach of loos for the able and  less able amongst us.    What bliss and the girls had a great time twirling in the red armchairs just about visible above.   It was cool, elegant -  there was a pianist playing show tunes (but softly) and I had a lovely refreshing cup of tea.  After we had caught up, cooled down and the girls had played, we stepped back out into the heat, refreshed.  Although...I have to admit that I regret not joining my friend and her assistant in a glass of fizz, but then I had a bus journey with a 6 year old to negotiate afterwards so sobriety was best.  Maybe next time....    

Highlights from the garden

It may be a(nother) sign of middle age, but the garden is my favourite thing about where we live.  Less than half a mile from Tower Bridge and yet it's an oasis of calm and green-ness and maybe it's because I have learnt to block out the aircraft/bus, police siren noises but I feel peace descend when I am out there.

Anyway, as part of my experimentation in finding out what will grow in the thin soil, I picked up a sad looking Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt' in the plant hospital bit of B&Q 2 years ago and I can hardly bear the's got buds for the first time!

Here it is, my budding beauty

and this is what it should produce over the next couple of weeks

Isn't it gorgeous?  And the heavenly fragrance...sigh...

Meanwhile in other parts of my little plot, and this is particularly for the benefit of Bo Peep and friends, here is what's going on

Cistus or rock rose I believe

some self-seeded foxgloves which the bees appear to enjoy and

lots of different shades and textures of green

and finally some of the pots. 

I'm aware that these don't really do it justice  - either my camera or technique is lacking I suspect.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Doncaster disaster

So in spite of the fact that 7 (yes, that's right, 7) children have died in the past 5 years whilst under the supervision or direct care of social services, and the fact that the Audit Commission which inspected the Council announced in April that it was deeply dysfunctional with Councillors (majority Labour) putting their own interests above those of their community, Labour which had been in a position of no overall control, gained a majority on May 6th! Democracy strikes again.

Today, in an effort to save the people of Doncaster from themselves, the government has imposed a new Chief Executive as well as several Commissioners. They have in effect, taken it over, lock stock and barrel.

Let's see who has been MP for Doncaster for the past 5 years or more - why it's Ed Milliband, Labour Leadership contender and oddly, although I may be mistaken, silent throughout the entire slow disaster that has unfolded in his city over the same period. 

What are we to make of all this ?  I admit to being baffled by the hold which Labour has over areas where they have manifestly failed to deliver anything worth voting for.   And yet, people vote both in the Council and General elections for Labour candidates again and again.  In Haringey (you may recall Baby Peter tragedy), same result, Labour increases their hold on the Council.  

There is a belief widely peddled in the print media, that the LibDems fight dirty in their local election battles but I suspect that they are merely novices in the dark arts, as nothing else comes close to explaining these results.

Gremlins attack Springsteen!

Don't know what happened but just realised earlier post has been disabled by something so here goes again:-