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Showing posts from 2006

Our Daily Bread and Workingman's Death

News from a few film buff friends of mine in Australia of two good documentaries viewed at Melbourne Film Festival.

Our Daily Bread is a film that enters the lurid world of industrial food production and high-tech farming. Not for the faint-hearted apparently, as about a third of the audience walked out. Bound to send ripples through the industry once it gets released at the London Film Festival this September.

View Our Daily Bread website here

Workingman's Death explores heavy manual labour in the 21st century - down illegal mines in the Ukraine, among the sulfur workers in Indonesia, with lions at a slaughterhouse in Nigeria, ship breaking yards in Pakistan, and Chinese steel workers.
Looks like amazing cinematography.

View Workingman's Death website here


McDonald's has agreed to stop buying chicken fed on soya grown in deforested areas of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

So what's so bad about soya?

Soya farming is chewing up the Amazon rainforest at unprecedented rates as huge areas are cleared to make way for massive monoculture plantations. The impact is huge, not only on the plants and animals that make up the forest itself but also on the communities that live there. From an illegal port built in the heart of the Amazon by agribusiness giant Cargill to handle the vast quantities of soya being shipped out from the region, soya exported by Cargill goes directly to Europe to feed the chickens found in fast food retailers like McDonald's and supermarkets across Europe.

A campaign by Greenpeace has been so successful that not only have McDonald's made their own pledge, but with the help of Greenpeace, they've been instrumental in getting other food companies and supermarkets, such as Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury&…

Urban invasion - space invaders in Barcelona

Returned to one of my favourite city haunts - Barcelona. Great to see the space invaders are still popping up in unexpected corners. Anyone up for invading Norwich?

Drum Camp

Anna Mudeka

Back to work after a seriously chilled out weekend at Drum Camp, a small-scale WOMAD in Bungay, Suffolk. The festival was a refreshing change from the usual frenzied affairs; intimate workshops with world-class musicians such as Modou Diouf and Nansady Keita and a truly eclectic mix of evening performances at the Main Stage, from flamenco to bhangra with can-can dancers in between!

As I don't have a musical bone in my body I planned to simply soak up the vibe and enjoy the live music. But the constant drum beats were infectious and it's almost impossible not to pick up one of the many varieties of drums lying around and join in.

So I decided to attend an Indian Dhol workshop with the Dhol Foundation and attempt to learn some bhangra rhythms. The Dhol is a traditional North Indian instrument made from a large wooden shell. It has two skins on either side which are made from goat hide. Rope is then woven through the edge of both the skins and they are tensioned to pr…

School of thought

I spent many an hour in this nook of Bedales library poring over texts of Zola and Beckett. I used to love staring out onto the apple orchard dreaming of becoming a famous writer and having my book placed in this section. Sadly nowhere near that goal yet but at least my name may crop up from time to time in their new magazine section! Returning here after 10 years made me realise that very little changes in this space of time. The library smells exactly as it did, the globe still glows and the teachers remain timeless masterpieces. So I guess there's plenty more time to write that chef d'oeuvre; the 25 year reunion should be about right.

The Codfather

According to an article in The Times today, mafia-style gangs from Russia are plundering protected stocks of cod and then laundering their illegally-caught hauls through fishing ports in Britain.
Read the rest of the article here: How the fish on your plate makes you an accessory to crime at sea

Some interesting facts in it too:


How quotas have altered over the last five years:
Cod down 15% to 20,180 tonnes
Herring down 15% to 100,304 tonnes
Whiting down 15% to 11,796 tonnes
Haddock down 13% to 42,770 tonnes
North Sea prawns up 32% to 1,418 tonnes
Hake up 3% to 4,699 tonnes

So next time you head down the chip shop, why not opt for something less endangered such as hake, colney or Dover sole. it will taste even more delicious than your usual cod. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) publishes a Good Fish Guide and you can find out Species to Eat and Species to Avoid.

It has compiled a “Sustainable Seafood Supermarket League Table”, based on the performance of the ten main U…

Blog of the Month

Exciting news today as I found out that BLOGetc has been given the accolade of Blog of the Month in the Summer edition of The Chronicle. Delighted to know that my blog is being read. I'm now more determined than ever to write as often as possible and win lots more awards!

Experiment and Tradition at Voewood

Mary Gaitskill at Voewood

I love Norfolk in the summer. Made the most of the glorious weather this weekend at the Voewood Literary Fete, High Kelling, Holt. Set in the grounds of the beautiful country house Voewood, it was the perfect setting for a picnic and my first delicious Pimms of the summer (why does the first Pimms always taste the best?). I enjoyed Mary Gaitskill's lyrical, poetic reading from her new novel Veronica and although I had no idea what Yang Lian (poet now resident in London after his work was banned in China) was reciting in Chinese, it sounded beautiful. His short, sharp, heavily punctuated words seemed to bounce seamlessly through the humid evening air.

Met Voewood's eccentric proprietor Simon Finch and marvelled at his exquisite taste in furnishing and renovating this fine example of Arts and Craft architecture. Voewood was built by E.S. Prior for Percy Lloyd between 1903-5, and cost the staggering sum of £60,000 to construct. A rich combination of concr…

New form of advertising?

Is it just me or is advertising getting even more 'in yer face' than ever before? Never seen this before - advertising for cheap flights by BA via a projector onto a side wall on Old Street - images flashed up on rotation every few minutes. No idea where the projector is hidden or how they got planning permission but it certainly catches your eye as you walk past. Must be really annoying for residents but reminded me of the recurring debate about low cost flights and carbon emissions. Just written an article on responsible tourism for Sprouts magazine and discovered that short flights are more polluting per passenger mile than long-haul flights as take-off and landings generate a significant part of the total emissions per flight.

Pacific encounters

Feathered head
Hawaiian Islands, Late eighteenth century
Feathers, basketry, fibre, dog canine teeth, pearl shell, wood
H. 81.0 cm, HAW 80
The British Museum

Went to the re-opening of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia and was impressed by the refurbishment and launch exhibition: Pacific Encounters: Art and Divinity in Polynesia 1760-1860. A wooden bowl, supported by two figures with shell eyes and teeth of cut boars' tusks, is just one of 270 rare and extraordinary sculptures, ornaments and textiles in the exhibition; striking giant feathered heads from the Hawaiian Islands with dogs teeth and pearl shell eyes and woven feathered helmets, all used as ritual objects. The red, black and yellow feathers came from honeycreepers unique to the islands. One, a rare U-shaped breast pendant from the Marquesas Islands seen at Tahuata during Cook's second voyage in April 1774, has hundreds of red and black abrus seeds gummed to the upper surface of its whit…

The new rocket fuel

Just returned from two weeks in London, where I've been freelancing for a specialist provider of financial information on the renewable and clean energy industries worldwide. The work has given me a clearer picture of the technology being developed to support the growing interest and funding being directed at the sector.

No more is this evident than in the NEX, a global index, which tracks the performance of 'companies worldwide whose technologies and services focus on the generation and use of renewable energy, conservation and efficiency, and advancement of low-carbon energy solutions.' A quarterly update on the performance of the NEX shows a gain of 25.3% in the first quarter of 2006. An increased interest from investors and the effects of rising oil and gas prices have contributed to this rise. The best performing sector was biofuels, biomass and waste-to-energy sector. Ethanol and biodiesel could well be the fuels of the future.

My rocket fuel has been provided by the …

Au revoir Viet Nam

22nd March 2006


A sobering last day in Vietnam as I chose somewhat perversely to visit the War Remnants Museum, 28 Vo Van Tan, District 3. I needed an excuse to cry, and boy did I get it. Every visitor to Vietnam needs to come here to put it all in perspective. As I looked at the photographs taken by brave war photographers, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with what is happening in Iraq. Have we learnt nothing from these atrocities?

Had my last lunch date with T at TIB, 187 Hai Ba Trung District 3, which serves Vietnamese food from Hue region. Tried deep-fried soft-shell crab, which you dip into a lime and salt dip. Yummy. Did a last dash to Ben Thanh market to buy freshly ground coffee, where I saw a rat the size of a small cat scurry past me. Even the trader shrieked with shock – don’t think she’s seen one that big before either! So, to my last meal in Vietnam. It had to be my absolute favourite, a bowl of soothing pho, to take me on my way. I linger over it for…
21st March 2006


Arrived back In Ho Chi Minh City in time to go out for dinner with T and S. We went to the Temple Club, 29 Ton That Tiep, District 1. The Luxe guide describes the place as ‘excellent Vietnamese fare with flair’ and I tend to agree. Loved the antique fittings and screens that added to the sense of intimacy. Apparently Terence Conran, Ralph Fiennes and Jeremy Irons like to go here but I’m yet to see one celebrity here! Then on for cocktails at the rooftop terrace of Caravelle: Saigon Saigon, 19 Lam Son Square, District 1 – great views of both the skyline and the girls ‘working’ the rich tourists. The evening would not have been complete without a final Passion fruit Martini at Q Bar. And I was saved the debauchery of Apocalypse Now, a supposedly late-night club, but it shut at 12!

Propaganda art in Hanoi

Was taken to one of the best places in Hanoi to buy freshly cured ‘Thit Bo Kho’ on Hang Bong St. Delicious chewy blocks of beef jerky which expand in the mouth the more you chew, releasing a salt beef chilli sensation. Highly addictive stuff and surprisingly filling too!

R & Y bought me an original propaganda artwork from aptly named Propaganda art gallery. The message means: ‘Strongly promote industrialization and modernization for the goal of a strong nation, prosperous people and democratic society.’ It’s a perfect example of high-impact advertising using a bold, bright and graphic style that draws your attention. The artist, Luong Anh Dung, now fifty-three, graduated from Hanoi Industrial Art College and has worked for the government as a propaganda artist since 1968. He said: ‘I believe in socialist ideals. If I didn’t, I could not create my paintings.’ Dung’s inspiration comes from his faith in the system and he always paints in bold strokes, bright colours and simple repeti…

Cha Ca-tastic!

Lunch was taken at ‘the oldest restaurant in Vietnam, open since 1871’ at Cha Ca La Vong, 14 Pho Cha Ca. R & Y wanted me to try the local speciality of Cha Ca, truly delicious crispy pieces of firm white fish, fried with spring onions, shallots, yellow onions, parsley and sweet dill. We climbed a steep, creaky wooden staircase to find a room full of local families eating together with gusto. I knew I was in for a treat! As soon as we sat down, a bowl of rice vermicelli arrived, followed by a clay-pot full of burning coals. A huge plate of fresh herbs and various dipping sauces were added to the table before a sizzling pan of golden yellow fish was brought through from the kitchen. Help yourself and keep adding fresh herbs to the pan until all is eaten.

At that very moment I realised why I love eating Vietnamese food so much; in England we are accustomed to having one dish with our ‘meat and three veg’ in one go. Part of the enjoyment of eating out here is that you can play around …

Scooby Snacks

Hard to ignore the country’s treatment of animals, especially pet dogs, which are often tied to short pieces of string and never taken for walks. Today I realised why their owners were perhaps hesitant to let them loose; dog is a food speciality and this restaurant on Tran Nhat Duat was packed full of appreciative diners.

Flowers sellers, Dong Xuan market

19th March 2006


I felt that my whistle-stop tour would not be complete without a visit to Ha Noi. Its name means ‘River Exterior’ and is a reference to the Red River; 100km of its dikes embrace the city. I feel so privileged to have lots of kind friends willing to host me as I travel from South to North. I've been so inspired by this beautiful country and its people and have been writing and taking photos every day. Today I was shown the sites of Hanoi from the back of a motorbike with R as my host and tour guide, and B (his cute 5 year old son) between us. The Northern capital is a lot more chilled than Sai Gon, with 1.2m inhabitants compared to the former capital’s 4.5m, so riding around is safer and the only true way to explore the city. Motorcyclists even stop at red lights here! The city has an air of a provincial French town in the 1930s with its blocks of ochre buildings, peaceful lakes, shaded boulevards and green public parks.

The morning was spent wandering the Old Qu…
18th March 2006


T has always been my perfect shopping companion and if she weren’t working in travel, she’d be the perfect Personal Shopper/Stylist. She knows exactly what I like and where to get it, which saved me days of getting lost and returning empty-handed. Phew. Got most of my shopping done around Ton That Thiep St and even had time to pop into Fanny’s for ice cream. T says it’s a typical meeting place for Vietnamese women instead of bars, as the majority don’t drink or smoke. Saigon Kitsch is a great shop, 50s-style retro with commie-prop gallery upstairs. Shopped out, we took a taxi to L’Apothiquaire, 63 Le Thanh Ton St, District 1 for some serious pampering. This day spa is set in an apothecary-style French 100-year old building with limed woods, lilac shutters and a great pool.

Ready to hit the tiles, we decided to splash out and go for dinner at Xu Restaurant Lounge, Level One, 71-75 Hai Ba Trung, District 1. As with most exclusive new establishments, you m…

Hoi An tailors

16th March 2005


Got up early to cycle down to the local market to watch the locals haggling over fish, spices and vegetables. People buy their fresh products every day, sometimes twice a day, so they take real joy in selecting the perfect ingredient each time. Went back to the Mango Rooms for a light lunch and enjoyed a nice chat with Duc and his friends. Had dessert at Tam Tam Café opposite; I’m not a big fan of ice cream normally but since I’ve been in Vietnam, I’ve developed a real taste for it. I had lemon and mango sorbet, and vanilla ice-cream, which came decorated with long strips of yellow, red and green sugared papaya delicately curled around each scoop, topped off with a green papaya cigarette shaped wafer – heaven!

Then headed off for my third (and final) fitting at Yaly, praying that I’d still fit into my suit after this indulgence. The suit and two pairs of trousers fitted like a dream but my camisole was sadly far too small to fit over my head. So while I waited for …

Yaly Couture

15th March 2005


Staying at Ancient House Resort on Cua Dia, a small boutique hotel with spacious, immaculate and stylish rooms. Can imagine that this would be a good place for honeymooners, as the service is discreet and the gardens and pool are beautiful. Got an upgrade on the second day to a room with a balcony so I can now sit outside and write, which is a marked improvement.

I get free bike rental here so I’ve been out exploring. Riding a bike after so long and in Asia was a thrilling experience. Make me think how much quicker I could get about and see so much more. Today I cycled off the beaten track for a good 2 hours until I came to a boatyard where I pulled up for a refreshing drink. Don’t think these people see many white faces round here. I was drinking alone then suddenly there were about 15 faces staring at me. Curiosity got the better of one old man who hopped on his moped and escorted me down the road! I noticed that even this far out, huge speakers blast out propaga…

View from Hoi An footbridge

14th March 2006


Drove past the memorable Marble Mountains en route to Hoi An. A real highlight of the trip so far has been this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hoi An is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and its street plan reflect both indigenous and foreign influences. You can get lost for days wandering the streets, or take a ride along the banks of the Mekong, past the paddy fields to the beach.

Visited Ly’s café on Nyugen Hue to meet Ly, who has owned this restaurant for the past 10 years. I’d been sent to say hello from F and taste her Cao Lao. I expected someone older but instead was warmly greeted by a beautiful, trendy young woman who smelt really good too! I was lucky to stumble on the place as I’d forgotten the address, and the strange thing is that I didn’t realise I was at Ly’s until I picked up the menu! I’d left it quite late to look for a meal (10pm) so most places had shut…

Citroen Traction Avant, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

12th March 2006


Just back from Phan Thiet, Mui Ne Beach, a relaxed beach town in Binh Thuan province, 200km northeast from Ho Chi Minh City. This was a good call on T’s behalf as it was the perfect place to recuperate from jetlag and a gentle transition into Vietnam. I jumped straight from the plane into a minibus although I might as well have stepped into a game of Wipeout. My head was spinning from the lack of sleep and rank wine that I was swigging but nothing quite prepared me for this first road trip. If you thought the Greeks or the Thais drove like crazy people, then you've seen nothing. There are no rules other than if you are overtaking, it is up to the oncoming vehicle to slow down. If the car in front is moving too slowly, you simply tailgate and hoot continuously until they move out the way. If they don’t, you accelerate to overtake, keep hooting and hope for the best. Motorcyclists don't always put their lights on at night either- apparently that&#…


Hello and welcome to my personal blog; a clearing house for a freelance writer's random thoughts, observations and discoveries. Kindly bear with me while I get my head round this new, exciting medium.