Thursday, April 30, 2009

Oh No! Not Piglet!

Palladio at the Royal Academy

S. Giorgio Maggiore is the only building by Palladio I've been in, I think - although he did design other buildings in Venice. Its an extraordinary church, I was deeply impressed with his architectural usage of entasis - subtle curving - which enlivens the space. Working as he did from ancient Roman sources, I did not expect to see such an advanced grasp of the classical Greek aproach.

My friend Karen and I have planned for the longest time a trip to view the Palladian villas in the Veneto - I', very glad t=for the recent RA exhibition, which has re-ignited this ambition. I really enjoyed the mix of portraits and paitings, architectural models, artifacts, photographs and original plans and drawings. They even had digital constructions of Palladio's unrealised projects. Completely fascinating.

Artichoke Soup (or, Things to Do with Scallops)

In an impulse of curiosity, desiring to widen the culinary horizons, I purchased a pack of Jerusalem artichokes from Sainsbury’s. I think I last ate these at least ten years ago.

I also thought they were a good credit crunch option.

I consulted my recipe books. I hit gold in Simon Hopkinson’s “Roast Chicken and Other Stories”: Scallop and Artichoke Soup.

Now, scallops are definitely not credit crunch material - however, the project suddenly developed into a treat to boost the animal spirits in a recession! ;-)

Scallops would feature in my top three edible favourites; I would choose them as my last meal. I don’t think they are available in South Africa - the first time I ate a scallop was on a visit to my cousins in Vancouver. Instant heaven; the highlight of the trip!

Since then, I have eaten them whenever and wherever:from the deeply luxurious and classic French Scallops au gratin at Marco Pierre White’s Mirabelle Restaurant to the new Brit classic from Kensington Place, Grilled Scallops with Pea purée and mint vinaigrette.

Nigel Slater has a recipe where you wrap the individual scallops in bacon strips, dust down with parmesan shavings and grill. Yum!

But recently my fave scallop recipe has been Nigella Lawson’s Scallops and chorizo from Nigella Express - this counts as so fast and simple it’s hardly a recipe! - but soooo spectacularly delicious. Just chuck some chorizo slices in a pan, fry to release the oils, chuck the scallops in until cooked (timing is all; don’t over fry - literally a couple of minutes; just until the scallops are opaque); then toss with lemon juice and chopped parsley.

The salty, meaty chewiness of the chorizo sets off the subtle smooth sweetness of the scallops; and the lemon and parsely take the edge off the richness of the dish. Possibly this is my last meal request, and it’s so fast I might be able to have it twice in one sitting!

Back to Simon Hopkinson’s soup recipe. I don’t think you can go wrong with scallops. Ok, maybe not with chocolate.

The artichoke soup recipe trends in the opposite direction to Nigel’s and Nigella’s - instead of contrast it works on complementaries: piling one kind of semi-savoury sweetness on another.

The artichokes have a subtle, rich, complex flavour of their own. The soup is your classic French butter, milk and cream concoction (enriched with fish stock, onion, bay leaf and thyme). The artichokes are blended and strained to velvety smoothness and then the poached scallops are added. Parsley and croutons for garnish. Fab.U.Lous.

Maybe my last meal could be the artichoke soup to start and the chorizo and scallops for the main course?

a trip to St Peter's, Cambridge

St Peter's, Cambridge has been around for a very long time, but the local community was slightly too ambitious when they came to build it: almost from the start it seems it was too large for the community to afford upkeep. The church was downsized (literally) in the 18th-century, but still fell into decay and neglect. When Jim Ede created Kettle's Yard, he also set about renovating and saving this church. It is now deconsecrated.

The doorway is Norman (11th, early 12th century). The inner column on the left is an 18th-century wooden replacement for the lost original. The church walls were built out of reclaimed rubble - the red bricks visible in the lower right are actually reclaimed roof tiles from ancient Roman buildings in the vicinity - the Roman fortress is nearby.

One can borrow the key to the church from the desk at Kettle's Yard and enter the tiny church.

St Peter's 11th/early 12th--century font has 'mermen' carved in each corner. Not a classic Christian motif; unless perhaps they are referring to fish imagery.

This is apparently the oldest surviving baptismal font in Cambridge.

Close-ups of the font carvings - these have seen almost 1000 years of babies being christened . . .

Jim Ede was a 20th-century aesthete, apparently the first modern art curator at the Tate, and the creator of Kettle's Yard in Cambridge: he transformed four cottages into an extraordinary space; a showcase for his modern art collection. He donated the whole thing to the University of Cambridge, and to this day it remains a remarkable ensemble of classic English craftsmanship and high modernist aesthetics. There is a memorial tablet to him in the church he helped save.

"It is salutary that in a world rocked by greed, misunderstanding and fear, with the imminence of collapse into unbelievable horrors, it is still possible and justifiable to find important the exact placement of two pebbles."

~ Jim Ede, A Way of Life: Kettle’s Yard, 1984

Springtime in Clapham - part 2

Strange fruits . . .

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Springtime in Clapham

I love the horse chestnut flower spikes!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sex and the City (not)

"If you believe you are born gay, you are forced to be tolerant. But if you bring in choices, it changes everything."

It is this ominous quote from Joe Nicolosi, speaker at the recent “Gay Cure” conference 1, which seems to me to most clearly and succinctly delineate his bigotry.

Of course, people are born gay and as law-abiding citizens we deserve acceptance and equal rights. But, say - completely hypothetically speaking - if homosexuality was a choice, why does Dr Nicolosi think “it changes everything”? Again, as a free, autonomous and law-abiding citizen, I would expect society to respect my free choice to love whoever I want. Nicolosi has no right at all to judge me or intervene in any way in how I choose to live my life lawfully in a free society, especially over a choice which has no impact on him whatsoever.2

The ex-gay brigade’s failures of logic are just astonishing. If homosexuality is a ‘choice’, why does there need to be such a large and activist “reparative” industry to “change” people’s “choices”? ~ and what about the gay penguins, flamingos, bonobos and the 1000s of other animal species demonstrated to evince homosexuality quite naturally? How do they fit into his ridiculous, completely outdated and discredited Freudian ideas of how gayness comes about?

The tragedy is this flim-flam only appeals to vulnerable gay people and their families, desperate out of fear and ignorance to clutch at any straw. Words like “reparative”, “choice” and “healing” completely disguise what their “therapy” really is: brainwashing and mental bludgeoning, forcing internal repression and the simulated appearance of heterosexuality. Underlying same-sex orientation and desire does not change, it is merely suppressed. The unfortunate victim of this “therapy” lives a zombie half-life, desperately trying to convince everyone, including themselves, they are straight, until they have some kind of breakdown. The established psychiatric opinion is that there is no scientific evidence reparative therapy succeeds in its objectives, and in fact it has the potential to do tremendous damage to the patient and their family.

So for Heaven’s sake, Dr Nicolosi, let my people go!

1 Zefrog organized a well-attended protest outside this conference.
2 Apart from destroying the rationale behind his business, of course.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One & Other

Ok - I've signed up for a chance to be a statue! In the terms and conditions it says I have to abide by copyright law. I hope this doesn't mean that if I'm accepted I will become ⓒ Antony Gormley.

Imagine hobnobbing with Nelson in Trafalgar Square! Good luck to me!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

plus ça change

My head, heart and stomach are still heaving from this morning’s Guardian news. Although cynical to my bones, even I thought the Grauniad was pushing it a bit when they highlighted the first Tomlinson pathologist’s questionable record. Well, now they look like they were bang on the nail. The new pathologist’s finding that death was caused by “abdominal bleeding” makes this a clear-cut case of manslaughter. But as always the lying and the failed spin do the most damage to the Met’s reputation. And the IPCC’s actions do not inspire confidence either.

So, since my last post in this here website thingy, the story has developed as follows:

1) The police “heroically” “come to the aid” of a dying “heart-attack” victim, under a “barrage” of bottles/bricks*/intercontinental ballistic missiles** (delete as necessary) thrown by a “crazed mob” of “rioting” protesters.

2) A balaclaved riot policeman callously and brutally attacks an innocent bystander from behind in full view of his colleagues, who do nothing to intervene or assist the victim. The victim dies minutes later from the injuries sustained.

The Guardian’s video footage of the attack was the crucial evidence moving the story on from (1) to (2), cutting though the IPCC’s apparent failure to take protesters’ evidence seriously. By now it is very clear the protesters evidence is far more credible than that of the police and IPCC (“no CCTV cameras in the area”).

Ironically the Guardian’s footage is probably illegal under section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 (and 58A of the 2000 Act). The public’s right to identify individual policemen is absolutely crucial, and arguably this includes the right to photograph them should they - as is apparent in the G20 police action - choose to disguise their identities by covering their faces and number badges. The rules regarding photography of police officers need to be repealed urgently.

*The “bricks” claim was made on the day of Ian Tomlinson’s death by the Evening Standard. They have since deleted this claim from their website (video evidence shows one plastic water bottle thrown, by someone possibly unaware there was a medical emergency). Ian Tomlinson was a newspaper vendor for the Evening Standard.

** Making things up is fun!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

police brutality

The Guardian has put the video up on You Tube and invited people to repost it, so here it is. It's absolutely great that it exists, because it clearly shows the violence perpetrated on Mr Tomlinson was completely unprovoked, and exposes the lies that emerged in the media immediately after the G20 protest last week.

Very similarly to the Jean Charles de Menezes case - downright lies are disseminated about the victim first, only for the truth to come dribbling out later.

Except in this case, we have corrective video evidence, the best kind. It will be hard for them to spin this, and even the Home Secretary is talking about criminal investigations.

I suspect this will be the last case of its kind. Anti-terror law now forbids the photography of police officers pursuing the course of their duties. Expect this law to be ruthlessly enforced at the next protest. We really are becoming a police state.