Category Archives: Local Food

Ron Finley, Frank Sidebottom & a Headless Chicken …

… are My Three Best Things About … being online this week.

The first involved a *presents positive spin learned as government press officer* happy mistake. Well, okay, a mistake: made by me.

“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.”

Ron Finley is an awesomely-inspiring, creative man who’s brought guerrilla gardening to bring fresh, healthy food to  South Central Los Angeles. He ‘wanted a carrot without toxic ingredients I didn’t know how to spell’ in a community where the drive-through kills more than the drive-by. The authorities tried to stop his planting. Ron won.

A year ago, he gave a wonderful TED Talk. I posted this on Twitter at work at the time and spotted it again this week while looking through links for an evaluation report on the Local Food Programme project where I’ve been working. I tweeted it again, managing to get both the date AND his name wrong. Ouch.

Ron graciously pointed this out in a reply – and started following the Farm. I apologised straightaway, giving my name so none of the other folk who post would get any criticism. He sent a lovely response: @StepneyCityFarm @TEDTalks @KarenJKHart #AllGoodThings That cheered up a night of insomnia.

‘There are currently two films about Frank Sidebottom in production, one meticulously searching out the world of Frank (Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story) and the other exploring the idea of what it was to be a man in a fake head (Frank, for which Ronson was screenwriter)’

Poor Jon Ronson has had rather a challenging week, saying on Twitter that he’s ‘a man being yelled at by 8000 Guardian readers’ for Frank. The quote above explains more about the two films; it’s from this feature in The Skinny.

My husband and I met through The Archers. After a get-together of a group of like-minded people, we wandered off for an evening at the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town: a Frank Sidebottom gig.  Fantastic. Yes, ‘Guess who’s Been on Match of the Day? is Our Song.

We’ve finally got round to ordering Being Frank: there’s still time to support the documentary and get listed in the credits. My husband commented on our gig story and got back my second best thing, this lovely response from Steve Sullivan, Director of Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story:

‘Surprisingly, you’re not the first person to say they got together with their partner at a Frank gig! Surely not the romantic of atmospheres, but then there was magic in the air!’

And the Headless Chicken: best thing number three.  The Folkestone Triennial announced this year’s artists, including Yoko Ono and Andy Goldsworthy. I’m looking forward to ‘Whithervanes … a neurotic early worrying system.’ One of roofoftwo’s five sculptured birds will be on top of that Martello Tower, just around the corner from my Mum: a 21st century weathervane measuring levels of concern on the internet.

I’m sure Frank would approve.

A love letter

Point_Break_movie_posterI always wanted to be a surfer. When I was 14, I hung out with some real surfer boys down at the beach in Folkestone.  Some days the waves could be fully a few inches high as they crashed to shore.

And I have to confess that Point Break is one of my favourite films. This is because of my misguided belief that it shows a lovely lifestyle: taking away all the robbing of banks, of course.

Nothing to do with Keanu Reeves: honestly. Although my daughter’s father was approached by some girls in Tampa Bay who mistook him for the great wooden actor. But that was a century ago.

This love letter isn’t to Keanu or to surfing. It’s to Twitter (bear with me.) It still amazes me that many of my family, close friends, acquaintances, people I look up to etc think it is pointless and would somehow lower them to join. I won’t list their objections as, in the words of the great Molesworth, “I diskard them’.

If it wasn’t for Twitter, I wouldn’t have found Weekly Blog Club, which I came across via my work on an archaeological dig. I love these weird links. Its deadlines (ha!) and the support I’ve found help my writing enormously,

In the last 24 hours, wonderful things have happened on Twitter, I’ve used it for work, where I spotted and claimed some free collection tins to use on Stepney City Farm’s donkey walks.

That got me into conversation with the wonderful Childsi Foundation, a truly inspiring charity helping abandoned children in Uganda, and the terrific Kirsty Marrins, who’s always got fascinating social media info to share and is now signed up for ferret-walking. Not to mention an offer of support and a free Coffee Guide from Klaudia at Allegra Strategies: donor of donation tins.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the  new campaign to combat food waste that was launched at the farm this week: The Pig Idea. If you’ve read this far and you haven’t heard of it, please check it out. A Twitter exchange led to thoughts of a children’s play about this in liaison with the Half Moon Young People’s Theatre.

There’s been much more but enough about work. Today is a writing day so I naturally headed straight to Twitter.

It was playing about there this morning during important brainstorming and blue sky thinking (aka arsing about) that has inspired my tribute.

I had an Alice in Wonderland moment of surrealness as a comment I made was favourited by self-styled gay immigrant @carrozo , whose account of yesterday’s smash and grab raid at Selfridges is today’s Daily Mail lead story.

I always look forward to entertaining and informative food writing and curation by Sarah Emily Duff.  Today she showcased some superb food pseudery about onions, which led to an exchange of appalling puns between us and a surfer in South Africa. As it does.

All my unrequited longing for surfing hit me and took me right back to how it felt to be 14. It may well  have filled a gap in the neverending rack of pain that is my novel writing. So thank you, Steve Kretzman.

And if you want to swap surfing in SA for writing in Whitechapel, you know who to ask.

Five Senses at Stepney City Farm

goslings_Stepney_City_Farm

I have not fully trusted my senses since watching someone put a forefinger into an empty eye socket during a fire when I was 14.

This did not ‘happen’: I was in isolation hospital for a few weeks with a high temperature brought on by severe glandular fever. I have very few memories of that time but that awful hallucination is as real a memory as any other that I have. It involved all of my senses: I won’t go into any more horrible detail.

On to the nice stuff: my sensory week, which ha’ bin mos’ly at work on the Farm.

Hearing: Nineteen goslings in grass for the first time after hatching live on Channel 4 and a week in the barn at Stepney City Farm. The sound of utter joy.

Vision: More Farm birdies: it has to be the Herding of the Runner Ducklings. They hatched on the same TV show and are the most adorable sight: big feet, tiny wings and the Platonic ideal of duckiness. 

Smell: Is this a bit of a cheat?. It is certainly the toughest to convey online, alongside taste.The most memorable smell this week was the baking of delicious bread but that wins taste as well. So I am choosing the Forge at the Farm’s Rural Arts Centre. This mixture of fire and metal and warmth is striking (no pun intended.) This wonderful Spitalfields Life feature on my colleague, blacksmith Ian Lowe, was published on Wednesday and gives a real feel of the Forge.

Taste: The best freshly-baked bread in London and beyond; the old East End family firm of Rinkoff. We’re opening a café at the Farm in the next few weeks and I had a lovely trip with manager Jassy Davis – who took the terrific videos and pictures here – to sample some of their delicious loaves.

Touch: The soft, warm, woolly coats of two new Jacob lambs, who were born on Monday. Now who is going to believe me when I say it has been a tough week at work?

 

‘Bugrit! Millennium hand and shrimp’

Victory_Gardens_Batman_Robin_Superman_1948
“AIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE – – !”
“A grisly fate, but one that he deserved.”
“Right, Batman! Let’s go for ice cream.”
“Ice cream is not good for young, healthy boys, Robin. Instead, let’s have some 100% American steaks served with vegetables from our Victory Garden.”

True randomness is difficult, I believe. This is most likely down to my own thoughts and actions; nature- and nurture-influenced as they are.

This is already not a random quest, to look at ‘random’, but Weekly Blog Club’s suggested theme. And I like being given a title to write to, rather than spend ages trying to think of my own.

This post’s title is the catchphrase of the marvellous Foul Ole Ron, from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. I chose it as the most random collection of words that sprang to mind.

I’ve just re-read ‘Thud!’ in which the phrase appears, so not really random, is it? Off to Google to investigate.

It is either truly random, or not random at all, if Wikipedia is correct, as it is: ‘the result of Pratchett feeding a random text generating program with a Chinese takeaway menu and the lyrics to They Might be Giants‘ song Particle Man’ (the link is to a song I prefer: the theme tune to the pleasantly-random Malcolm in the Middle.)

So with a background of journalism (i.e. nicking other people’s thoughts and words as a basis for my own), I did a Google search for ‘random’. This is already less-than-random as its algorithms are shaped by my browsing history.

This took me to the glorious black hole of time-wasting that is www.random.org You have been warned.

I played with the random date-generator: proving again, to myself at least, that it’s hard to do random, by choosing a predictable date. I entered – you guessed it – my date of birth and today’s date, resulting in

‘Here are your 4 calendar dates:
Monday, 30 April 1984
Wednesday, 2 April 1986
Monday, 15 March 1999
Wednesday, 19 July 2000
They were picked randomly out of 13,280 possible dates between [redacted date in old money] and Wednesday, 13 March 2013.’

Now I am longing to find out why those dates might be significant: I want to put reason and rhythm over randomness. I don’t keep a diary so will probably never know. Do they mean anything to you? I would love to know.

I thought the comic image was wonderfully random: Batman among the quotidien cabbages. But I didn’t come to it by random. It’s on a brilliant blog of food links by Sarah Emily Duff, whom I follow on Twitter. I started following her as she was engaging with Simon Okotie, a dear friend whose book I helped to publicise. Now I think of it, his ‘down-at-heel hero’ Marguerite has elements of Foul Ole Ron…

My day job is to publicise a Local Food project and I spend a lot of time thinking about people growing their own vegetables. And the image itself was published in 1943. What could be less random than government propaganda-esque exhortations to Dig for Victory and swap the American Dream lawn for the veg to go alongside your 100% American steak?

I like to think of myself as a natural anarchist and therefore presumably drawn to the random; if I am, then it is one who likes things to be tidy and in order. My capacity for self-delusion can always be relied upon to be less than random.