Come along for the ride!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Our differing approaches to terror

I read an excellent article by Geoffrey Wheatcroft last week that I keep meaning to mention here.

I decided to copy and paste it into the page rather than provide a link 'cos I always think that newspaper pages are usually so full of ad's, that they often detract from the article itself.

It's not a short piece I admit, but very, very worthwhile.

(from the Independent Saturday, 20 February 2010)

Israel "is not a country about aggression and targeted assassination, it's a country about science, hi-tech and shopping malls". This arresting definition was proposed on Channel 4 News on Thursday evening by Rami Igra, a former Mossad agent, although he rather spoiled the effect by what he said later.

In fact, everyone assumes that Mossad did it. The authorities in Dubai believe the Israeli secret service assassinated Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas official, last month. The British Government agrees that it was Mossad, or at least wagged a finger at the Israeli ambassador because British citizens' passports stolen in Israel had been used by the hit squad.

And most Israelis, with varying degrees of approval, agree. Igra contradicted himself by adding that the battle line nowadays wasn't the Maginot Line or Stalingrad (not an argument one had recently heard) but the streets of London and Jerusalem, and that in this great conflict "Western civilisation" was obliged to find new methods – "including targeted assassinations".

Not that this was a revelation. For years Israel has openly proclaimed that it will take revenge on those who kill its citizens. Those responsible for the 1972 Munich massacre were all hunted down and killed, along with the odd bystander. The "targeted killing" of suspected terrorists has long been avowed policy. A few years ago, the then deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said he did not exclude the option of assassinating the elected president of the Palestinian Authority.

All of which highlights a blatant double standard, between the treatment of terrorists of different nationalities and hues. The word "racist" is overused, but in this context it applies all too accurately.

Tomorrow evening we can watch the remarkable spectacle of a television programme about Jesus presented by Gerry Adams, the impenitent former leader of the IRA who was responsible for some of its worst atrocities. This is one more case where television companies as well as politicians weigh with two weights and judge with two measures.

Some years ago, the contrarian Belfast journalist John O'Farrell (not a Protestant unionist) was writing about the career of Martin McGuinness, which had taken him from head of the IRA to minister of education. As O'Farrell said, thanks to the Belfast agreement and settlement, "the children of Northern Ireland will have their futures in the hands of a man who, if he were a Serb, would be indicted at The Hague".

Or try another comparison, the respective fate of two terrorist leaders. One is a white Catholic Irishman, the other a dark-skinned Muslim Palestinian; one is asked to present a programme on Jesus, the other is brutally bumped off – an assassination which, like all such by Mossad, will never be publicly condemned by the US. Suppose that, at the height of the IRA violence, Adams and McGuinness had been the objects of "targeted killing" by MI6. It's interesting to speculate what the American reaction would have been.

The British media are sometimes accused of a bias against Israel. But would Channel 4 ask an unrepentant Islamist terrorist who had killed ordinary Israelis to present a programme on the Prophet Mohamed? Or, for that matter, Ratko Mladic to talk about Orthodox Christianity and the Serbian monastic tradition?

This comparison – the question of why some terrorists are more terrorist than others – has indeed been addressed before, by Tony Blair. It was highly pertinent at the time he was doing everything he could to appease the IRA with one hand while the other was waging a savage "war on terror" in the Middle East.

And he addressed it with his usual glib speciousness concealing a feeble case. "I don't think," he said, "you can compare the political demands of republicanism with the political demands of this terrorist ideology we are facing now." Why not? Why is there any difference in kind between the ideologies, as well as the methods, of Adams and al-Mabhouh?

Compare and contrast, as exam papers say. The IRA and its front organisation Sinn Fein want to undo the partition of Ireland that was effected by the creation of a separate province of Northern Ireland in 1920. To that end the IRA deliberately murdered many people, including ordinary Protestants, and that end, if not the means, "is shared by many of our citizens", Blair says, as well as by millions of Irish Americans.

Hamas wants to undo the partition of Palestine that was effected by the creation of a separate state of Israel in 1948. To that end it has deliberately murdered many people, including ordinary Jews. And that end, if not the means, is shared by hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims as well as others in Asia and Africa. Why does their support not equally validate the objective?

When Blair spoke he was still prime minister. He has since gone on to highly paid fresh fields and lucrative pastures new. One of his supposed jobs is as envoy to "to promote an end to the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict in conformity with the road-map", which was one of the justifications with which he previously sold the Iraq war to his deluded followers. He has totally failed in that role, as the eminent Israeli historian Avi Shlaim observes, not least because of "his own personal limitations; his inability to grasp that the fundamental issue in this tragic conflict is not Israeli security but Palestinian national rights". Shlaim adds that this is precisely what has endeared Blair to the Israeli establishment, so that at the very time, a year ago when the people of Gaza were mourning their dead, Blair received an award from Tel Aviv university as "laureate for the present time dimension in the field of leadership", accompanied by a modest cheque for $1m.

As Shlaim says, the award was absurd in view of Blair's "silent complicity in Israel's continuing crimes against the Palestinian people" – but it was no less so in view of his indulgence towards Adams and McGuinness.

But then perhaps all this is too elaborate. It might be that the shade of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, and for that matter of any of the Taliban men recently extirpated by CIA drones, could contemplate tomorrow night's repulsive programme and simply ask, like Ali G: "Is it 'cos I is black?"

(cover of latest bedside read)

Friday, February 26, 2010

More adventures with dough

Before Lord and Lady Parker presented me with my (new) favourite cook book by HFW, my old favourite cook book was The New English Kitchen by Rose Prince (good grief, I'm so fickle).

It isn't really a cook book in the 'recipe-filled' sense of the word; it's more of a guide to sensible shopping, planning ahead etc etc.

Rose would've been proud of me this week. We bought a lovely big chicken on Tuesday which I roasted, along with all the usual suspects; it was delicious. When we had finished, M stripped the remainder of the meat from the carcass and I threw all the bones in a stockpot along with a couple of carrots, an onion, salt pepper and half a bottle of white wine and simmered it for an hour.

There's your stock for your chicken and pepper risotto the following night, which, if I do say so meself, was bloomin' delicious. and would you Adam and Eve it, their was enough meat on those bones to allow me to have a sandwich for lunch the next day too.

If you're listening Rose, thanks for the advice!

Although, why on earth Rose decided to call it the "english" kitchen (and thereby alienate a plethora of readers who might not be fans of the English), I have no idea!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again"

During half term, we spent a long weekend in England's very own garden; Kent. More precisely, we spent a long weekend in historic Rochester, the place which inspired much of the work of Charles Dickens. It is a very pretty little town, quaint tea shops, antique shops, the beautiful cathedral, not to mention the fabulous Rochester castle, parts of which were built in 1127!!!

For a change, we stayed in a hotel; thought we'd take a break from cooking, washing up and so on. As nice as it was, there is always (like, always), an element of Fawlty Towers whenever we stay in anything other than self-catering accommodation, but I will spare you the long-winded rant for once (this time, at any rate!)

It just so happened that I finished reading a book while we were there and, being the kind of person that likes quirky coinicidences, I thought I'd mention it. The book is called Coram Boy and was written in 2000 by
Jamila Gavin.

The blurb on the back of the book starts with the sentence, "A tale of two cities ..." I liked the fact that I happened to be finishing this book (with this wording), while we just happened to be in Dickens country.


Tale of Two Cities?

Ok, ok, forget the coincidence - go and get a copy of this book, tomorrow!

I took the book from the school library and it is clearly aimed at the younger reader but I think this is a book for the young in the same way that The Simpsons cartoon is for kids - yes, they may enjoy it, but there's heaps of underlying meaning which (I feel) would be lost on many.

Although The Alchemist will forever remain my favourite book (partly because of it's simplicity), Coram Boy has to be one of the best books I have read to date.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The week that time stood still

Look, I could apologise for going missing, but would you believe me?

Would you care?

' thought not, so buckle up; here we go.

If you have children, it will come as no surprise to learn that it is half term this week and, lucky me, I am off all week avec mes enfants.

So there'll be none of these (below) for a week ....

.. plenty of these (tunnels) ...

.. and we've already had a bellyful of these (expertly mixed by Missy) ...

.. with these fillings (note my favourite and my best cook book!)

And we're only half way through the week!!

ps - this post is dedicated to my watch who is at the menders after one of the links in the bracelet broke. (well, it is a very old watch after all!)

Get well soon old chum; missing you already - if I have looked at my bare wrist once in the last 72 hours, I have looked at my bare wrist 30 or 40 times!!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

"I've never really understood ... why you stayed".

As I’m sure you would agree, there are many, many beautiful things associated with our northern neighbour, Scotland. Let me give you just a couple of examples.

Single malt whisky from the Isle of Jura (best drunk from a short tumbler made from finest Edinburgh crystal, natch), the view north (or south) from the west coast of Loch Lomond, fresh snow on your face as you exit the button lift for your final descent of the main run at Aviemore, Sharlene Spiteri, the sea of electric blue thistles on your way down one of many hills in the Trossachs National Park.


Yes, that's right, Sharlene Spiteri.

Oh boy, I remember seeing Ms Spiteri way before Texas made it big - it must've been about '92. I thought she was gorgeous back then and she's still gorgeous now. That woman can do no wrong.

Or at least I thought she could do no wrong. Until I heard

Dear oh dear, sweet Sharlene!


There are some things which cannot be touched and ELO and Olivia Neutron Bomb's Xanadu is one of them!!!

Promise me, promise me, you won't do anything like that ever again?


What other Scottish things have I loved and admired over the years?

Sean Connery's marvelloush ack-shent (not to mention his Highlander character's name Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez). Ooh, talking of Highlander (one of my fave films of all time), there was of course, the beautiful Beattie Edney who was on the receiving end of the goosebump inducing line, "goodnight, my bonnie Heather".

Goodnight indeed.

This isn't the first time I have mentioned Scotland (see
here), but it will definitely be the last, at least on these pages.

Cheers, Big Yin!

Monday, February 08, 2010

"Go on my son, bash 'is bloody 'ead in!!"

Following advice from Thierry a couple of days ago, we went to North End Road market in Fulham to check out this famous fishmongers.

Yes, it was as busy as he said it might be.

Yes, it was full of all the amazing fish and seafood he said it would be.

Yes, I purchased some rather tasty items for my seafood risotto I was cooking in honour of my Dad's belated birthday.

I bought an enormous piece of cod (the original fish was massive), which they filleted and skinned for me; about fifteen giant tiger (looking) prawns and two fairly large crabs. The crabs weren't for the risotto - I figured the children might enjoy taking a rolling pin to them and discover a bit more about where crab meat comes from!

The risotto (if I do say so meself), was a rather fabulous affair - very tasty indeed - and was appreciated by all. (Sorry, was too busy drinking fermented grape juice to remember to take a teensy picture of the finished product) and, as I suspected, the children did enjoy eating crab after they'd taken to them with the aforementioned rolling pin.

I will leave you with some pictures of one of the crabs, nicknamed Colin, before, during and ... erm ... after his demise.

Fresh crusty bread, fridge cold butter and a healthy dollop of Colin - delicious!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

"Bonnet de douche!"

Well, almost exactly 1 year on from being bought a voucher to The Kitchen, I actually went along to see what all the fuss is about. That makes it sound like I didn't want to go along but I was really looking forward to going. However, for some reason, it was only the thought of the voucher expiring after 12 months that got my lazy butt into gear and booked myself in.

And what was not to like?

I like cooking, I enjoy discussing food, eating food, nice wine. This way, I could prepare tasty meals, someone would tidy away for me, I get to chat to and ask advice from a Michelin starred chef and generally act like a wanna be Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall.

As it turns out, I had booked at a very quiet time of day to go and it was just myself and Thierry. What a splendid chap he was too. Affable, knowledgeable, reassuring; he asked me if I liked to cook and was I any good?

"I'm ok I s'pose", I replied before very coolly slicing the merest sliver of skin off a finger.

He smiled understandingly before hollering the length of the cafe/kitchen, for someone to bring a plaster. Jean (as in John, not Jean) kindly brought me not one for my bloody digit, but two more, "just een case uh?", he sniggered.

Heh heh heh ..... yeah, thanks John.

Apart from the embarrassing slip o' the knife, I really enjoyed my time there. I could've been in and out inside 20 minutes but chatting easily with Thierry, this turned into an hour and a quarter, getting tips not only about how to cook but where to buy good, quality meat and fish as well as fresh, seasonal vegetables, more of which, another time.

"Are you driving?" he asked. I was. "Shame, we could 'ave drirnk zum good French wine, no?"


This was probably a good thing though, because it's possible I could have sliced my entire hand off, such was the sharpness of the knives there, something of which he was immensely proud.

I made ham hock pie for two and I made Indonesian chicken rendang, they were professionally heat sealed and packaged in a sleeve that wouldn't look out of place in Harrods food hall.

I thanked him very much for the unique experience and told him I would be back.

And I will, definitely.

Got to.

I never spent all my voucher!

Au revoir!