Saturday, October 28, 2006


Last weekend we bought a deluxe three-in-one-massive-machine juicer/smoothie maker/er, juicer and can now enjoy the benefits of eating far more fruit and vegetables through the much more tolerable medium of juice.

So far it's all very enjoyable with several frenzied evenings running around the kitchen looking for more things to juice to make the four hour washing up session worth it. I'm a girl of simple tastes, so here are my recommendations for the best juice combinations so far:

Apple - home grown
Apple - green
Green apple, celery and grape
Grape - just whack 'em all in before they go off!
Carrot, yum
Tomato & chilli

Yum, yum. Later on I intend to try some more adventurous combination, coming back from the market with such exotic fare as beetroot, pineapple and peppers - woo!

Does anybody have any suggestions for juices? Ideally no more than 3 ingredients, please...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More long-distance musings

Living in the wealthy West is all about having the luxury to tie yourself into knots about the ethical dilemmas that come your way.

Today I saw the quote that, for me and in a very simplistic way, swung it on the age-old question 'Should Madonna have adopted the little African baby'. Little David's father, who has been branded a simpleton by those who think he shouldn't have signed the child over, said: 'It is a blessing from God. He is so lucky, he will learn many things. I appeal to the self-styled lovers of David to leave my baby alone. Where were they when David didn't have milk when his mother died?' It's a good point, well made, you have to admit.

Later in thelondonpaper (yes, I'm still reading it and mostly happily), we read he of Ryanair, Michael o' Leary's throwaway comments about switching over to Fairtrade coffee, because it's cheaper than what they had before. 'We'd change to a non-Fairtrade brand in the morning if it was cheaper', he said in an open invite to all other bad coffee companies to bake a bid. As he probably intended, he wound up Greenpeace no end, who hate him for his low-cost flights around the world, fair-trade coffee or none.

I'm on a bit of a no-fly time at the moment, partly because I'm trying to use my money for other things (like no longer getting into debt) and partly because increasingly, we can do all our communication without having to fly across the world, even if it's not quite as nice as a hug. My friends drop in on Gmail from exciting places like Canada and Rwanda and I don't even have to leave the desk to find ou what the weather is like where they are. But you think I wouldn't be on that runway at the drop of a hat if someone offered to send me off to Dubai or Kigali tomorrow? I would you know.

Quakers in particular, and the poor deranged 'left' generally, are very good at arranging international conferences and then wringing their hands over the cost to the environment. We've always been a well travelled people (I write 'we' in the sense of someone descended from migratory Quakers) ever since George Fox trotted around Barbados and America to see how his followers were getting on being persecuted in warmer countries. They were on ships, of course, but I'm sure the odd moment was spent wondering whether they should be in their comfortable cabins while all the people being transported and enslaved were stuffed in below. Well, possibly one moment. I don't have a lot of time for such worrying, as whichever way you wring your hands you'll never reach a place where you're free of guilt.

What is clear is that we're lucky to have these choices at all. To be the child chosen by Madonna must seem something like winning the lottery and as with all such pieces of extreme luck, there are always downsides. I reckon little David will be able to afford to visit home and even, lo, move back there, should he so choose.

Ah, but. Later on still is a fine piece of vitriol lifted from the New York Post. Madonna, the monster, it says, is raping Malawi with her 'freakish slave auction' and should be crucified. Not metaphorically, no, *literally* nailed to a cross. Gosh, I obviously wasn't outraged enough. But since when did we think Madonna was responsibility for sorting out world problems? Why the anger at her, rather than all those politicians who actually keep this system of inequality going every year? Madonna wasn't at the Doha rounds last time I looked. Neither were the politicians, since the rich countries had a tantrum and shut it all down. Andrea Peyser's highly speculative article grudgingly says that Madonna has given $3 million to the orphanage that was David's home-before-Marylebone but that this 'may' lead to a Kaballah-based curriculum. Jesus. It's like the missionaries all over again. The money-bearing educating feeding religious bastards. On the other hand, we might get more balance if a few more atheists sauntered over there wielding their money and their belief systems but to be honest, I don't see much of that, unless you count Bill Gates, whose religion as far as I know is IT.

Isn't one of Angelina's pet children from Malawi? Didn't Prince Harry go there to help the little orphans? Or am I being stupid? I don't remember all this feather-spitting about them, whichever country it might have been. Surely people aren't really disappointed in Mad Madonna, having seen her strange sweary Live 8 performance and actually expected better? Honestly?

And on an entirely different note, related only to my train journey...

Breakthrough! Finally one of the new Killers tracks strikes a chord. I knew it would get there in the end. Lovely.

Postscript. So at the end of a slightly delayed journey, Warhorse and I shoot down the newly finished shiny freeway (not really called a freeway in Britain) known as the A500. A wonder of technical achievement, by Stoke standards anyway. On our street, in contrast, they have spent at least two weeks installing one brand new streetlight per person – and only switched one of them on. So we have a pitch-black street, lit only by the silvery reflections of a forest of useless lamp-posts.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Dividing us

Yes, another rant from the pen of the long-distant commuter. Call it bridge-blogging for those of you that feel you need a spotlight on British current culture. Don't call it an obsession. I have other things on my mind, this just seems to be the best use of White Llama's stage at the moment - and some of you have been encouraging me!

In Rwanda they call it divisionism. They blame the media for stirring up the racial tension that led to genocide. Post-genocide, human rights organisations defend journalists from detention when they have reported something that has crossed the line.

In Britain, we call it inciting racial hatred, but the line is far harder to cross. Inconcievable is it that the journalist, much less the sub-editor, should be locked up for writing a controversial headline. Some might say controversy is encouraged, though nobody wants to read a story with a dull headline.

But today we see the Evening Standard, the primary paid-for newspaper in one of the world's most tolerant cities.

- Guide dog banned by Muslim taxi driver -

First of all, imagine why this is designed to infuriate the 'British', in the constructed sense of the world - white and generally English. The British love their dogs, they love their dogs even more when they earn their keep. So dogs that *help the blind* are just about as revered as it gets, top dogs if you like. Secondly, the British hate petty bans. Why wouldn't you let a guide dog, of all creatures, into your taxi? Why? After all, you let vomiting drunks in every weekend, we say, sweepingly. So, on the basis of a general wind-up-the-British-reader scale, a ban of a guide dog, anywhere, scores highly.

Then we come to the word Muslim. On a day when the Muslim veil has been on the majority of front pages (those that were not dominated by a writhing nearly-nude Big Brother girl, that happy symbol of British freedom). Of primary importance here is that under the code of conduct absorb by most journalists during their training, is the rule that you don't mention a person's race unless it is relevant to the story. There is no justification to mentioning the driver's religion. Unless, perhaps, the taxi driver had an objection to the dog because his religion teaches him that dogs are dirty, which may have been the case.

Now there are certain rules to being a taxi driver: you're not supposed to refuse a passenger when you've got your light on for example. But these rules seem mainly dreamt up in order to rile the London taxi-seeker when a cab sweeps past. Imagine if you will, that you had a certain distaste, perhaps even a terror, of spiders. For whatever reason, your customer wanted to place you in a confined space for some time with his spider. Now, you might try very hard to get over your sense of horror and revulsion for the sake of the person who is disadvantaged and needs his helpful spider (I know, hard to imagine, venomous creepy aliens that they are), but perhaps you just won't be able to do your job properly in its presence. Perhaos you would quietly apologise and suggest that the person find another vendor this time.

Now, I don't know that any of this happened. I'm simply basing my response on that headline, as many other people will. Particularly as nobody's actually reading the Standard anymore.

Yesterday we had a major story that a (Muslim) police officer was the subject of investigation after his bosses had allowed him to object to guarding the Israeli embassy. Now, that's a whole other post that I don't have the energy to write at the moment, but this series of stories about Muslims have a subtext, if you can call it that. Let's just come out and say it.

The awkward Muslims, who are invading our country in huge numbers and wish to turn our state to Sharia law, are refusing to fulfil their basic duties as citizens of our country. They probably want to blow us up, but if they can't do that, they will cetainly do their level best to make life uncomfortable for us, whether that be by wearing their veils, refusing to let us into their taxis or refusing to defend the embassy of a country that is very good friends with us and particularly with our security services. Why can't they just be like us?

What I really don't understand is why this message is being broadcast so loud and clear from nearly every national newspaper when it is so, *so*, SO far from the every day reality of the vast majority of British people. Why a debate about difference and inclusion, which is a perfectly healty thing, is being played out in the totally skewed world of the front pages, with an extremely limited cast of actors, most of whom we don't like and don't trust. I've said it before: these editors are simply trying to save their plummeting circulations, they will say anything they can if they think it will make you think we live in a world so scary, so serious that we need to buy a daily newspaper.

This construction of Britishness is also so outdated as to be farcical. Our everyday lives consist of multiple exchanges with immigrants who live here and work here. If they weren't here, the native British wouldn't be able to an enjoy the existence where every child can aspire to a middle class job, a home of their own and probably one in Spain too. Most of our inner-cities would have collapsed 30 years ago. We may keep ourselves separate, but it has always been thus with divisions more historically based on class than nation of origin. It is a country where every man's home is his castle and we construct walls round each other. Sometimes our suspicions are fuelled, but we are usually cynical enough to discount rumour and political spin. We also love the opportunity to interact, to mix our food, our language, our music and dance. We are a polite people and we like to enjoy ourselves and work hard. Every part of this applies to the people who have come to Britain, because they are a part of us too. My generalisations about Britishness can never only refer to the white population, because where does that leave my non-white friends who have been born and grown up here?

Freedom of religious practice is another British essential, defended instinctively and forcefully throughout the last Milennium. Whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian non-religious - a belief system in itself of course - or whatever else, there will be good and bad things that you do and you might say you're doing it because of what you believe. It's personal. If you don't harm someone else - the major definition of legitimacy - this is your right in Britain. We also laugh at other relgions and our own and perhaps this helps to diffuse the tension that could turn ugly. Itís not always nice, but I would suggest that you normally know from context whether there is malice in the humour or not, context which is completely devoid in a large-print newspaper headline.

What is worse - feeling uncomfortable talking to someone in a veil or feeling uncomfortable talking to someone without a veil? It's a personal struggle, what might be called a clash, but more likely something that two individuals can sort out for themselves; usually by being accomodating and polite enough to recognise each other's feelings. To keep your veil on if you want it on, but to know that you will find support if it is hiding repression and abuse and you want to take it off.

The glare of the press endlessly forces people to justify themselves, to apologise, to condemn. The press have a role to hold institutions to account, to point out wrong-doing and perhaps to vocalise the needs of the powerless. I don't for one moment think there is a public interest in the current obsession for 'Muslim' stories. I believe they are dividing our society and have seen people spouting racist theories that have the formula of newspaper generalisation. They don't deserve their place on every street and I would like to see the spotlight turned a little more firmly towards them.

White Llama will, of course, do its bit...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Scary movies

Last night, after a long weekend baking and digging, we splashed out to go and watch Chlldren of Men at the cinema. Leaving aside the unbelievable price of the popcorn and drink (inexplicably the 'couple's combo' is 1.50 even more than the regular combo, which seems a bit unfair, so we pretended not to be a couple when the time came to pay), the lack of legroom and the teenagers who had paid a small fortune to come and chat out of the rain - it was a very good film.

It visualises the world that the Daily Mail thinks it is gently preparing us for, where all women are infertile and immigrants are being caged and sent to Bexhill for familiar-loooking hoodings and kickings. Set 25 years in the future, what gives the film an edge is its familiarity and realism, where fear has beaten hope and we all live in cages, waiting for the end to come. British film-makers are getting good at this sort of thing, moving from slightly depressing gritty tales to spectacularly violent and still gritty portraits of societies in the throes of destruction. In this sense, Children of Men had many echoes from 28 Days, a great British zombie movie. There's rarely much hope in them, one or two characters might make it to a happy place on the other side, but the rest of the population are dead and you don't really miss them. They'll still have a good dose of British black humour but it is a bit more invigorating than ballet dancers and kestrils.

The other recurring theme in current British drama, of course, is the sinister, controlling government and the complex, mysterious terror threat, in which the government may *well* be complicit. It mkes you wonder if Tony Blair ever ventures into the cinema anymore, what with all these loaded messages being thrown at him like popcorn. Spooks in another good example, it's the best British drama to be made in years and it bashes away at the government to the extent that you think maybe they're not as evil as all that, for surely they would have had Spooks shut down by now.

Meanwhile the editors of the Mail and Express, who don't have much to do with popular culture these days, are doing their best to bring the world of fear into existence. There's a new wave of immigrants being waved through by the EU machine, coming to serve us coffee and clean our offices, the grasping bastards. The front page of the Express last week sometime was all about the dangers to be found in fruit and veg. I haven't bought any since. And our hapless political parties are buying into it, with their strange swings between playing to The Guardian 'hug-a-hoodie' audience and the Mail's 'hang 'em and burn their thieving bodies' (oh or the slightly unbelievable subheading to the story - n the Lite I think but only got a glimpse - about a fare dodger being throttled in the station: 'next time buy a ticket!!').

Some Tories, in their latest round of infighting, have accused their idiot leader David Cameron of pushing voters into the welcoming arms of the BNP by failing to address people's concerns about immigration and crime. The only logical way out of this is to put through the BNP's policies for them, clearly. There's a perception, in the still largely white and middle class world of politics, that people have just come to this on their own. That so many of the Polish bastards serving their teas have pushed them over the edge into rampant racism. Do they truly not, even for a second, think that their constant pandering to the right-wing press actually has a reinforcing effect and that more people are likely to believe the ravings of ten cash-hungry journalists in a leader conference if the government sagely nod at the Express headlines and say 'yes, something should be done' while sending 500 civil servants further along the merry-go-round of plug-filling before water leaks in the next gap. If they simply held up five copies of the Express up side-by-side, one with the fruitloop fruit story and a few of the latest Diana conspiracy theories, then the immigration stories would soon gain some perspective. And possibly we can breathe easier for a while.