About Me

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Guide to a Stress Free Christmas Day

Joan's stress free Christmas secrets:
have a lie in; make  Christmas dinner for no more than 6 people; have dinner anytime from 4.30 pm -6.30 pm so no early morning turkey messin'; don't drink more than two small glasses of wine while cooking/preparing; listen to the radio while cooking/preparing alternating radios 4 and 6; give a message of thanks that my mother prefers to go to my sisters; politely reject invitation to  dinner at sisters (love them both to bits but there are limits); ensure I am in charge of the remote after 7.00 pm - there are lots of things others can do whilst I watch Call the Midwife and Downtown Abbey, though neither lived up to expectations this year-  plus there's a massive  TV in the sprogs room for those who don't approve of mum TV; never eat Christmas pudding till Boxing Day; have friends and relatives over on any other day over the holiday period.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Arnold Circus 24/7/15

A cool July. Wet and windy with outbreaks of sun; occasional sunny days.

Took a trip to London and found myself near Arnold Circus in East London, not far from the city. Once the sight of a notorious slum, Old Nichol, the area round and about was so impoverished in Victorian Times it was said to be worse than St Giles.  Following demolition, this was to become the site of the first ever council estate in Britain: The Boundary Estate. Remembering the estate from the excellent BBC/Open University programme, The Secret History of our Streets, the social history geek in me couldn't resist taking a look.

The grade II listed buildings are a testament to the enlightened thinking of  late C19th social reformists. Although my sister commented on the slightly institutional feel of the design, I think they stand comparison with the middle class mansion blocks around the back of the Albert Hall, near Kensington Gore.

The topography of London continues to fascinate me. Sitting on top of the mound at Arnold Circus, it felt very peaceful. Later,  I read that, although the mound is  made of the materials from the old slum, there has always been a mound on the spot and some believe it marks the end of the Strand ley.

 The Boundary Estate The Secret History of our Streets


Spitalfields Life 31/5/2015

 I have been following Spitalfields Life for  over eighteen months now. The  writer, known only as the Gentle Author, blogs, amongst other things, about local people, business, urban wildlife and the way the area is constantly under threat from developers.

The Gentle author is currently involved in  a campaign to save Norton Folgate, an ancient thoroughfare which lies within a  conservation area. The old warehouses may not, at first, look beautiful but could be successfully restored and made interesting and do not need to be replaced by soulless glass office blocks. A nearby Victorian pub, a successful business with loyal customers, has already been demolished.

I first came across the conservation area around Fournier  St by accident, after visiting the market and spending time admiring Hawksmoor's architecture in Christ Church Spitalifields. I really did feel like I had stepped back in time. This was Georgian London alright but not the pretty squares of Bloomsbury; here  was something with more grit, less obvious charm and older. I could imagine Dickens' characters walking these streets years after they were built. I took a lot of photos, mainly of the amazing doors and knockers, and was amazed to find that at the end of Fournier St I was, unexpectedly, in Brick Lane. When visiting the area for a curry, with my son a few years previously, we had walked from Aldgate East on Whitechapel High St unaware of the oasis of C17th streets less than stone's throw away.

Since then, I have read up on the area and visited the famous Dennis Severs House and am planning to stay the area on my next visit to London.

For those of you with eclectic tastes, an interest in London, its way of life and conservation, I recommend Spitalfields Life and the Gentle Author.

 Spitalfields Life
The Spitalifields Trust
Fournier St
Old post featuring the Dennis Severs house

Balance and Justice 31/5/15

 There is a lot  more to life than politics but fairness and justice are important principles and so, regardless of political persuasion, I pray that the elected government can find compassion in its heart for the ill, the disabled, the unemployed and those on low incomes. I was heartened to read this the other week:

Council cuts: local Tories lead criticism as ‘savings’ hit vital services

 A few weeks ago, I was part of a rally through the town, which began at the park and ended in the town square. After the rally, I spoke with Julie Hilling, our ex-Labour M.P. who, just a week previously, had lost her seat. This is a great shame as Julie has been a good M.P.,  who cared about her constituents.

(This blog has had to be slightly rewritten for legal reasons. Blimey!)

A Sea of Blue and a Niggle. 20/5/15

I have a love hate relationship with politics. I am broadly socialist, yet a strong individualist, with a very strong belief in a social democracy which offers care and social benefits to all citizens on the basis of need.  So I am saddened by the results of last week's general election and the particular model of capitalism it espouses, one in which greed and austerity are like the hands of a very mean monster.  In my daily life,  I do not dislike Conservatives on an individual level. Political beliefs and opinions are only part of what makes a person who they are, and I have met cold and  blinkered socialists, and some kind, gentle conservatives but I cannot support austerity politics and the outsourcing of public services and I am concerned for what the future holds in terms of the welfare of the people, especially those in England and Wales.

As I write this, I struggle to come to terms with the fact that while England has gone blue, Scotland has embraced the SNP. The Scots seem to be merging strong  nationalistic pride with a social democratic model and a progressive agenda; so what is wrong with that? Nothing on the face of it,  yet my gut is starting to give me really strong niggles. The niggles link to Cameron's desire that English MP's should vote on English things, at a time when the Scots have ousted Scottish Labour for an SNP platform that offers the promise of the best of both worlds: National Pride and progressive social polices.  My fear is that this could be catastrophe for the English and the Welsh.  England and Wales could end up with elitist policies and more privatisation of vital services, whilst the Scots continue to have free university tuition fees and other benefits. Nicola Sturgeon is already looking to set her own taxes to fund the promises she has made. Once parliament is formed and the voting starts, will the SNP give a damn about the poor and disadvantaged of England and Wales? I cannot help but feel that the social welfare of the people of these two countries was partly tied up with Scottish Labour.

I was never convinced Labour would get a majority but the failure of the polls was surprising. Reading on-line yesterday, I found a link to this article. It suggests significant numbers of conservative voters tend to be coy about sharing their voting preferences and how this may have impacted on the polls. In a typically English way, there are lots of people who quietly and privately vote for what they believe is the best option and keep that entirely to themselves or those they trust.

Will England forever be conservative?

Article from the Catholic Herald