Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

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Without fanfare

March 13, 2012

It almost passed by without notice, but yesterday marked the 5th anniversary of our arrival in London. Half a decade, just like that. Well, almost just like that, as much as any five years can be said to be.

For my part, during that time I’ve worked on something like 14 feature films (most of which you’ll happily never see) in two countries and a stack of episodes of various TV shows, both high- and low-budget (yay, Doctor Who!) I’ve done a ton of drawing, leading to an exhibition last year, which was fun. Not lucrative, but fun. I might try that again one day.

The weather has been one of the weirdest things to try to get used to. Five years on and it still doesn’t feel right on my skin. The differences between the seasons were a fun novelty to begin with, but after most of five sets of them what I really want is for them to settle down and be reasonable more of the year; none of this bipolar ‘ now everything’s sprouting, now everything has to die’ rubbish. I understand it, but the animal living at the bottom of my brain still doesn’t.

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Off the Road Again

March 1, 2012

After the wild successes and gruelling trials of being on the road for 5 weeks, we’re back in the Zen-like state that is Islington, all go and stop at the same time, all hustle and bustle and nothing ever happens. Makes a change from whizzing around seeing loved ones and throwing away years of accumulated material memories (or selling them, which is strongly related in my book, given that both practices involve divestment of cumbersome goods as the ultimate goal. Also, in both cases you get to keep the actual memories, assuming you have a talent for doing that, absent the physical reminders.)

Also there was weather. From the dependable dustiness of the Pune winter to the torrential flooding squalls of north-eastern New South Wales we had us some weather. It looks like la Niña has come to visit Australia once again, with the reservoirs up and down the coast backpedalling from the dry-to-the-point-of-laconic stance we saw them in when we left the country five years ago. Five years ago the grass was crackling underfoot, and brown; the hoses had been banished and cars sat dusty on every corner and kerb. This time it was hard to find a dry spot to park yourself, but at least the plants were breathing easy.

The Road

I was going to turn this into a brutal blow-by-blow of the trip, but I think a couple of observations on memory and water will do for now. I will say, though, that I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to catch up with all the people, new, old, and older, that had the time to spare and chose to spend with us during the very little time we could spare them. You know who you are.

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The Flavour of Mystery

August 28, 2008

It is a mysterious taste, as it turns out, because only about 700 people in all of Great Britain have actually tasted anything like it. Good, fresh food, that is (maybe a tiny exaggeration).

The mystery began, as you may remember, when we booked a meal at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage HQ. The secret handshake survived the emailing, and as per instructions we walked with a map carefully memorised (but not eaten, lest it spoil the feast to come), and proceeded on foot down the darkening unsignposted country lane to the designated rendezvous point.

From there, with a group of fellow secret-handshakees, we were conveyed to the final destination by (relatively) unmarked stealth-tractor.

Out of the tractor and into the welcoming yurt (!) (arrayed with chilled Somerset apple brandy apéritifs and marvellous crab canapés) we hors d’oeuvred around the small cheery wood-burning stove warming the cool Devon evening. Then, suitably refreshed, we were welcomed to River Cottage proper. Once on the premises, we discovered, it was pretty much open slather. ‘Don’t disturb the Head Gardener, that’s his place over there, and don’t go into the room that’s been booked for the private function’ were our only real proscriptions. ‘Wander around the kitchen garden, visit the pigs, the geese (and they were delightfully friendly!), the ducks, the generator room, the kitchen, annoy the chefs, that’s what they’re here for!’ The place was ours. ‘Even look at the menu, if you want, before the meal starts!’ The veil of mystery had been whipped away to reveal…

We ate and drank (look here for some of the delicious beverages we imbibed) and yapped copiously in a converted barn, on two long trestles, about 15 to a side, couples across the table from one another, so every couple had four strangers to talk to. Once seated, there was a complimentary glass of English sparkling wine, and the head chef (Noni, Australian, gorgeous) made an appearance to commend the food to us, and tell us the names of the animals (and vegetables) that had given their lives that we might be sated. The bubbly, accompanied by a wild sea-bass ceviche (a bit bland for our taste) was, surprisingly, very good, and the names of the beasts, ‘pig’ and ‘lamb’, weren’t too off-puttingly personal.

— from James Rose(?)

So to the food, should you be interested – I liked the pig’s liver pâté. It had a rustic granularity, and lightness, lent to it by breadcrumbs, but Linda thought it should have been smoother [it’s pâté! pâté! (ed)] The fish soup was a winner. Hearty and fabulously full of stocky richness, well matched to the chorizo chunks swimming lustily back and forth across the bowl. The lamb was pretty damn good, but could have been, in an ideal world, a little bit more succulent (the poor little thing was sacrificed for us and was cooking for about 24 hours and still managed to be a teensy bit dry). The cheeses were a fine mix of assorted goat and cow varieties, with plenty of flavour, but all hard cheeses basically, some more variety in texture would have improved the plate hugely. Also, who knows how many hedgerows had to die to make that jelly? And so to the strawberry fool, what can you say? Fruity, sweet and creamy – quintessential dessert! [Linda didn’t like it at all].

So yes the food was good – not the greatest we’ve had, but close to the best we’ve had in Britain; and the fine, fine staff made the evening top stuff (if ever you read this lovely people you were wonderful – human and informed and all the right things) but the secret to the whole affair was the throwing together of a bunch of strangers, adding lovely tucker and lots of yummy beverages et viola! A top time was had by nearly all. Linda even got to sing along to Big Yellow Taxi with a lovely Cornish lass. What more can you ask for from an evening?

River Cottage rocks!

And we must tell you about the Chicken Out campaign soon.

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Out for the weekend

August 14, 2008

Woohoo! I have days off!

Now that the horror fillum Book of Blood has finished (and that’s a genre, not just a description – I think the director was going for Dario Argento mixed with Great Julienning Disasters Through History, ep.14) I have some time to enjoy the lovely English August. Currently hovering at 18-20C, during the day. Nearly warm enough for short sleeves!

So this weekend we’re off to Devon, spiritual home of the scone, I would assume. Debun, as one of the locals calls it. Maybe they all do. That’s two more research topics for this intrepid reporter. Stand by. The weather report is for mild and fine, until about the hour we arrive on the train at Axminster (I’m very keen to check out the local carpets – I intend to do some barefoot studies), at which point the rain is predicted to set in and keep us moistened for the weekend.

Our spirits will remain strong, however, as we are booked to dine at the River Cottage HQ eating establishment, professional home of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, champion of chickens and all-round good food guy. But more on that next time. Don’t even try to find the location of the restaurant on the website – it’s a closely guarded mystery, I think, and they send you instructions for the secret handshake in an encrypted email only after you’ve actually committed to the booking. Two months in advance. I could be corrected on certain details, maybe, but not without losing some of the fun from the story.

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Devon and not cream

April 19, 2008

Just finished listening to the Guardian environment podcast, which has bad news about England – the new government policy is to pour money into nuclear energy and “new coal” and ignore renewables; bad news about bees – apparently there’s a new and bizarre disease called total colony collapse which is just as it sounds and no one has any idea what causes it; and then some good news – there’s a town in Devon called Totnes which has become the world’s first ‘transition town‘ – “a community in a process of imagining and creating a future that addresses the twin challenges of diminishing oil and gas supplies and climate change, and creating the kind of community that we would all want to be part of.” Now that sounds tops to me. And it seems that the Sunshine Coast of all places is aiming to be the number one transition town in Australia. Who’d have thunk it?