Archive for December, 2008

Happy Christmas!

I am off now, imminently to post some Christmas cards and later on to visit a motley selection of friends and relatives, and shall not be back until the New Year; so…

Best wishes to all for a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

December 19, 2008 at 3:36 pm Leave a comment

Things I have learnt recently

In the last two days, I have taught myself:

  • how to do a provisional cast-on
  • how to make bobbles
  • how to do ssk properly – apparently I’ve been doing it wrong all along

December 10, 2008 at 10:23 pm Leave a comment

Stansted protests

The march on Saturday was great fun and, interestingly in hindsight, the friend I went with and I were talking about how one of her aunts was a suffragette and while we neither of us particularly wanted to go to jail (we both have allotments that would get covered in weeds in the meantime), we quite liked to think we would if something was important enough. I spent Sunday watching pretentious films and wandering around the South Bank in search of coffee and woke up on Monday morning to hear that protestors were sitting on a runway in Stansted.

Quite apart from being shocked at how easy it had been to get in (underlining my suspicion that the draconian safety procedures were more to maintain a climate of fear than to actually improve safety in any way), I have since alternated between being bloody impressed that there actually are people who think this important enough to get arrested for and wondering if the heart-rending stories from delayed travellers the press had pounced on would do more damage to the environmental movement in the long-run. (As if, you know, it was just a handful of loony treehuggers who were opposed to airport expansion rather than, like, everybody except BA, BAA and the Cabinet.)

There has been lots of debate about it, though. I spent most of yesterday travelling to Milton Keynes and back (via a funky wool shop in London – I now have materials for the dalek!!), but today I’ve been hooked on reading BBC’s Have Your Say, Comment is Free and the Daily Mail to see what people are saying about it. Overall, there are lots of people (fewer, perhaps, on the Daily Fail website than elsewhere – though it’s interesting to see how many of the ‘damn New Labour… taking our civil liberties… we’re living in a surveillance state…’ crowd have advocated the sort of police tactics more appropriate to a military dictatorship) coming out in support of their motives, and quite a lot of people in support of their methods, but plenty of other comments calling them ‘terrorists’ and moaning about ‘the damn eco-mafia… trying to tell ME how to live my life…’

Other criticisms have included:

  • that they must all have children, and are therefore hypocrites because population is the biggest threat to the planet, and so we can discard the point they’re trying to make
  • that they must all have driven to the airport in enormous BMWs, and are therefore hypocrites because road transport is a bigger contributor to total CO2 emissions than air travel, and so we can discard the point they’re trying to make (special mention to the chap who claimed that hybrids and Priuses and things emitted more CO2 per passenger per mile than aeroplanes)
  • that they’re middle class (erm…?)
  • that they must be welfare scroungers, and all their benefits should be withdrawn as they are clearly not ‘actively looking for work’
  • that they’re ‘professional anarchists’, don’t really care about the planet but just like causing mayhem
  • that they probably fly themselves so we can just ignore them (special mention to the person who said that all young people want driving lessons and gap years so how can they lecture the older generation for messing up the planet for them)
  • it was cold yesterday morning, ergo global warming is not happening, ergo they’re idiots.

Oh, and most of them thought the protestors should compensate the people who were inconvenienced, which shows you where our collective priorities lie… Hmm, I wonder if my parents can demand compensation from Ryanair et al. for the inconvenience of being flooded and having to move out (oh, wait, they have insurance – hey, aren’t you meant to get that when you travel in case something unexpected messes up your plans?).

December 9, 2008 at 9:04 pm 4 comments

“An affirming flame”

Or, an affirming dalek.

After last year’s gloom I decided to come up with five positive actions that would make me feel better. These were:

1) Take a dressmaking course, and learn how get more use out of my beautiful Singer treadle machine than just as a really nice table.

More or less done. I did the course and have managed to do things with the sewing machine. I could have done more, but I’ll still tick this one off.

2) Do something with the piles of scavenged curtains we have lying around to make my house warmer and more efficient. (Possibly contingent on the above!) Nag bf to put up curtain rails and get second draught-excluder for the back door.

I don’t know that ‘make one curtain then swear lots and give up’ really counts. Nope. Hmm. I got a draught-excluder, though.

3) Grow something (other than herbs) that actually gets big enough to eat, unlike my winter spinach which is still alive, but not getting any bigger due to the cold.

Yep, this one gets a big tick. The container garden was a success. The weather was crap, but that was not my fault.

4) Try and find some people in my area who are interested in these sorts of things, so I don’t conduct my social life entirely over the internet. Have been meaning to go to my local FOE group or Green Drinks since I moved, and never got a round tuit…

I have joined FOE and become their finance co-ordinator. Never made it to Green Drinks, but I did make it to a nearby Transition Towns meeting. I also got to know the nice lady who has hens and a fab organic garden better, but she moved to Ireland. *sigh* Tick!

And, more prosaically, 5) get a bit better at my job, so it takes me less time and I have more time to knit and garden!

Well, this one was so successful they employed me full-time, which means I actually have less time to knit and garden now. So tick as it stands, but not in the overall scheme of things. I have now officially applied for the MA (form sent off) and am planning to Wwoof over the summer to get my head back in a place where I actually enjoy things.

And in the mean-time? I was rather depressed at buying all my Christmas presents, which was demonstrably less fun than last year’s mittens-knitting-last-minute-panic (no, that’s not sarcastic, I mean it!!) instead of making them. I remembered having wanted to knit my brother a dalek. I can’t think what to get him, so I’m going to damn well get some wool and make the boy a dalek. Can I knit a dalek in 20 days?

I don’t care. If I can’t, he can have an Amazon voucher for Christmas and a dalek for his birthday in January! 😉

And, in other good news, the decision on Heathrow has been delayed, which gives me the teensiest, teensiest sliver of hope that common sense might just prevail… just…

December 5, 2008 at 9:16 pm 2 comments

“Waves of anger and fear”

And though her eyes are fixed upon
Noah’s great rainbow
She spends her time peeking
Into Desolation Row

I think it must be the time of year. I vaguely remember having a similar period of gloom last year, on a Friday evening, when Scientist Boyfriend was off revelling with other pensions consultants, about the total failure of the powers that be to do anything about the fact that our society is, hmm, somewhere between wildly unsustainable and on the brink of catastrophe. I think I am mostly disappointed by how we have totally squandered the chance we had since climate change and, to a lesser extent, peak oil went ‘mainstream’ about two years ago to actually make some real change. Aside from a bit of faffing around with lightbulbs and recycling boxes (and there were plenty of idiotic newspaper columnists who tried to convince us we were too busy and important to even to these) precisely zilch has changed and now, I sense a collective sigh of relief that now the recession means we can’t afford to, erm, not run cars or take foreign holidays.

Admittedly, this is not strictly true – we do have the world’s first climate change law and feed-in tariffs for microgeneration, but I have noticed no substantial change in the overall political and social climate, which still seems to regard ‘being green’ as essentially a middle class luxury, to be tacked onto the daily business of living, rather than an opportunity for social justice and a possible, nay necessary, lifestyle for everyone. Furthermore, the government’s climate change committee has been recommending clean coal and suggesting that, “It’s possible for the world to cut greenhouse gases while still not cutting aviation by anything like as much, even increase aviation emissions,” while the government is also re-opening the debate about GM crops.

There are plenty of wonderful individuals doing their bit in many inspiring and diverse ways, but I feel this is in spite of rather than because of any external incentives to do so. Most of us feel lonely and like we’re swimming against the tide, at least at times,and even if we enjoy what we do, we feel, well, like everyone thinks we’re a bit odd.

So, the long and the short of this is that, despite everything I’ve said about how the mainstream environmental movement drives me potty and the relative merits of political action versus individual and community action, I’m finally angry enough to go on the climate march tomorrow. I’d like to say something about how this was because I’ve been reading things like George Monbiot’s The Age of Consent and have become convinced that protest is useful and that we should all put aside our differences to fight for something big and meaningful in this insane world. However, that would be a lie.

I’m just really, really, really pissed off. I do not want to spend the rest of my life paying higher taxes to pay back the money we’ve spent bailing out the City. I do not want my parents to have to get flooded every year. I do not want oil to get to $300 a barrel before we’ve come up with plan B. In short, I loathe knowing that I’m going to spend the rest of my life clearing up the mess the previous generation made and trying to explain to my own children why it happened.

(I would also like to know why there’s an orange paper hat, presumably from a cracker, on the coffee table. Hmm.)

So, yes, I was going to say that if anybody else was going tomorrow, or rather if anybody else was half-wanting to go but frightened of going on their own, we could maybe meet up, but I’ve left it so late we’d only have 12 hours to co-ordinate! But, if you want to try, leave a comment or email me at sproutingbroccoli [AT] gmail [DOT] com. I’m actually going with a friend from FoE, but until I knew she was going I was intending to hook up with these people, who seem very un-scary:

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair
Show an affirming flame.

W.H. Auden – September 1, 1939

December 5, 2008 at 9:03 pm 2 comments


This first part is possibly not for the faint-hearted, but Monday saw me pluck my first pheasant. I’m afraid I wimped out of anything that involved fiddling around inside it, although (and I don’t know if this makes it any better!) not specifically because it was icky, but because I had thought that Scientist Boyfriend and I would be going to miss the preparation part and just turning up for the meal and thus I was all dolled up in my party frock and new winter coat (that I bought at enormous expense because it was the only one that wasn’t designed for women with the figure of a 13-year-old boy and which I wasn’t going to take off because it was bloody freezing!) and didn’t want to get them covered in, well, you know… pheasant. But the plucking (and being around the rest of it) wasn’t actually as icky as I thought, though. I was a bit worried about it, but something just kicked in and I got on with it. Partly because there was sloe gin on offer. Quite proud of myself, actually.

The things I’ll do for sloe gin, eh…

So we roasted the first tonight (the scrawny hen that Scientist Boyfriend did… I went straight for the big, erm, male one… I wonder if this is revealing in any way), with plenty of bacon on top to keep it moist (I normally find pheasant really dry, another reason I wasn’t enthusiastic about the project) and had it with potato and swede mash, roasted carrots, onion and garlic and steamed cabbage. I overdid the cabbage – I can’t help it, I’m British and sometimes I just boil vegetables to buggery – but otherwise it was a very wholesome, tasty meal. I was going to take a picture and post it here, but I can’t find my camera and didn’t want it to get cold.

Otherwise, I’ve just been very esoteric recently, reading a lot and listening to lots of conference speeches and writing letters of complaint to the BBC about Jimmy’s GM Food Propaganda Fight, none of which makes particularly good reading. I’ve made up my mind that I can’t carry on in a job that, given the credit crunch, is basically going to involve helping multinationals sack people for the next two years, at least not if I can’t freelance, and have made up my mind to do that MA starting next September, so have been frantically reading books on the food system, putting myself through personal statement hell and chasing up tutors from Oxford for references and other help and not had time for much else. So far, I’m interested in GM, famine, food aid and farmer suicides and other such cheerful topics. (Tesco in Thailand, too. I see a dissertation coming on.) And I might even carry on and do a PhD in something useful like urban agriculture, or work for an organisation that is doing something useful, or even think about a Soil Association apprenticeship given that what I would probably conclude after four years of academia is that we need more young people going into sustainable farming, and why shouldn’t I be one of them? (Capital constraints notwithstanding.)

I feel torn between my love of doing hands-on things and the fact that I’m just a great big geek. Ideally I’d like to grow things part-time and write part-time. But at least doing one full-time would be better than doing neither, which is where I am at the moment.

For those who are similarly inclined, the Soil Association conference is very interesting, my favourite moment being Vandana Shiva saing that, “[Hilary] Benn was naughty.” Vandana Shiva and the Feeding the World Conference is posting audio files and slides online. I listened to the presentation by Dr Michael Antoniou about how GM is based on an outmoded understanding of genetics and actually understood it.

December 3, 2008 at 11:37 pm 3 comments

Most recent ramblings

December 2008
The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."