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International Blockade At AWE Aldermaston

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Tadley Gate

The cat wouldn’t let me out of the house this morning. He coaxed me along for twenty minutes before I managed to distract him for long enough to grab an egg sandwich and slip through the door. Even so, by the time I got to AWE, it was still dark. This was the earliest I’ve got up in the UK since catching an early morning flight sometime last year.
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Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Ko Tao
Coming home from holiday is always a bit of a shock; especially when it involves startling awake in a congested, droning metal tube, improbably suspended in the night sky 30000 feet above the Siberian tundra and convinced that—at any moment—the spaceship is about to crash to Earth.

But coming back from Thailand is more than that. Awakening is not followed by relief. The colours dancing in my head on the National Express bus home did not settle down to the surrounding vista of grey, followed by a mild pang of regret.
Back home...
It’s not a question of putting some jerk chicken in the oven or going out for a curry and turning the radio to the Asian Network. I’m turning my entire kitchen over because I want to recapture those smells. I can’t let go of them.

Coming back from Thailand is heartbreaking.

Consider this: of the fifty countries I have visited, Thailand is the only one I keep coming back to for reasons unrelated to work, family or the constraints of a package holiday. And that was before I had a better reason to consider it.

John is the same. The proximity of the Red Sea is the only thing that placates him (it looks like I’ll have to take up diving again!)

One thing is for sure: we will be back!

One Last Memento

Don’t Do Anything Hasty

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Like booking a three months trip to Thailand just before depression strikes.

What was I thinking?

Tickets Booked (Yay!)

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

There comes a time when I run out of patience.

There also comes a time when I plain run out of the will to live.
Milo, reloaded

Cat died yesterday (in agony). Since he was all who kept me here, the only being to attach unconditional love and friendship to this singular patch of White English Soil, I’m now free,

Leaving for Bangkok 08/12/09.

Travel or Vacationing?

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009


The Thailand trip never came together. It was one of those things that gets talked about but never realised, like people talking about writing a novel ‘one day’.

Normally, I’d be booking my flights around now and to hell with everyone else. I would probably fly to Bangkok, because it’s the gateway to SE Asia, and travel around Vietnam and Cambodia and along the well-trodden path to Laos for a while before finding a nice island somewhere. I don’t have the stomach for India or Bangladesh right now.

But the job hunt is still going on. We may be re-joining the human race, fingers crossed, and our strange exile in this corner of chavdom may be coming to an end.

And then there is the stomach issue. If John comes along, this will be a different trip. How different depends on the duration. The less time we have, the more we’ll spend proportinally. A two-week-holiday will have a budget of at least five times that of the same time spend on the road, discounting flights.

A quick trip, , no matter where to, is all about quality. It starts with a decent airline (Thai or Cathay Pacific or anything else with at least a four-star rating, and no more Virgin if I can help it). A taxi from the airport to a pre-booked 4-star hotel. The hotel will be cool and discreet and screened from anything that really goes on behind the walls. Perhaps there will be a guided sightseeing tour. Food in quiet restaurants that may or may not bear any resemblance to what people actually eat in that country.

Then we’ll be whisked off to the resort in an air-conditioned coach, plane or train carriage entirely devoid of locals, except for the people who do the ticket collection/driving/trolley service. The resort itself will be behind walls, or involve a trip on a dive boat, like a self-contained island (I won’t be diving, so we’ll see about that. If I still were, and if we were still adventurous and young, Kalimantan would be the place we’d go to in Asia. If you fancy the Red Sea, try Dahab. Seriously!).

If we’re not out doing a tour, we’ll be lazing on a private beach or by the pool. Strictly no touts. It will get boring by the third day. There may be a little local colour in the food and entertainment, but apart from this it won’t matter whether we’re in the Caribbean or somewhere in Africa or Asia.

In practice, the holidays we take are usually a mix of the two. I often hanker after the former: absolutely no hassles! But at the same time I’m left feeling like an animal in a cage. John feels exactly the same, but he’ll admit it only grudgingly.

The bus drove past endless beachside developments for what seemed like an hour before we finally got to town.

“There are no door trees here,” John said sadly.

Indeed not. Just a few sad potted saplings and row upon row of concrete.

Either way, there is a price to be paid. Compromise is a lesson I learned from an old traveller on my very first trip. Spend the odd night in comfort. Rest before it all gets too much. Some nights are four-star, some nights are spend under a starry desert sky with meteors streaking across the band of the Milky Way while you shiver quietly in your sleeping bag as temperatures drop below zero.

Travelling—and getting it right—is an art I’m still trying to master.

The Fifth Quarter: Oildown

Friday, June 5th, 2009


When it comes to nose-to-rail eating eating, I’ve done badly with nose and heels, but I have used my share of heads and trotters.

Now it’s the turn of the tails.

Oildown is a dish I have heard much about, but never tried. Luckily, there are many recipes online. The dish seems to be simplicity itself, once you’ve sourced the ingredients!
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The Fifth Quarter: Cow Heel Soup

Monday, March 16th, 2009

not what it should look like!

Even before the credit crunch, eating offal and ‘neglected cuts’ (such as ears and feet) became fashionable among the chattering classes, thanks to celebrity chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fergus Henderson. But they are mainly regarded as things to chat about, not get stuck in day-to-day.

For me such meats have always been on the menu. I grew up in the countryside, and my elders tolerated no fuss when it came to eating. But I remember that most of the dishes were quite dull. The challenge is to come up with new and exciting ways to cook them. And, as always, travel provides the answer.

Tails, trotters, ears, noses and some bits of offal are what is generally known as the ‘fifth quarter’—food that was sold to the poor or given to slaves. While the Brits and North Americans nowadays tend to grind this sort of thing into their hot dogs, these items are still for sale in ethnic neighbourhoods (and some farmers’ markets), and they greatly influence the cuisines of the Caribbean and the US Deep South.

Nothing rams history down your throat like eating local fare. You can get pig tail stew a scant three-minute stroll from Tobago’s five-star Coco Reef Resort. Ditto cow heel soup. Cow heel soup is everywhere in Trinidad and Tobago. But as with so many ethnic dishes, over here it’s a closely guarded secret, and I had to go to T&T to find out what the fuss is about.

So when we were in London last week, I took a deep breath and pointed at one of the huge scorched cow’s legs that are for sale at the butchers in Deptford, wondering how I would get the thing into my pot.

No problem. Every ghetto butcher’s comes with a band saw.
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“Rights worth having are unruly things”.

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

“Rights worth having are unruly things”

There is hope for civil liberties in this country!

Transcript follows:

Thursday, 5 February, 2009 5:02 PM
Add sender to Contacts

Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp(aign)


A Ministry of Defence (MoD) byelaw banning camping ouside the Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston was quashed by the court of appeal today. The case, heard on 26th November 2008, was an appeal in the Judicial Review of the Secretary of State for Defence’s decision to introduce byelaws which would have criminalised camping as a form of peaceful protest.

The case brought by Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp(aign) hinged on whether the government’s ban on camping violated their rights to freedom of expression and assembly guaranteed by Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp(aign) have been camping outside the Atomic Weapons Establishment every month for the last 24 years, in opposition to the manufacture of UK’s nuclear weapons. Following the original hearing on 1st February 2008, the court quashed a byelaw outlawing the attaching of banners to the perimeter fence. The MoD chose not to appeal. Today’s judgement reverses the original ruling that the ban on camping was justified.

In a unanimous verdict, the Court of Appeal today rejected the Secretary of State for Defence’s arguments saying, “Rights worth having are unruly things”. The byelaw prohibiting camping was quashed and the women’s peace camp is no longer criminalised. This ruling has an impact beyond AWPC and the Aldermaston nuclear weapons factory. It strengthens the right to protest and legitimises camping as a form of protest.

Speaking outside the court after today’s judgement, a representative from the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp said “We welcome today’s outcome, which is not only a victory for the women’s peace camp but an important judgement on the right to protest. Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp will continue to hold our lawful camp to protest against the government’s unlawful nuclear weapons”.


Media contact details / 07887 802879

Further information
Full background briefing and high resolution images available at

The New Face of Terrorism

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Only in Britain would the words ‘Terrorism’ and ‘Health and Safety’ be used in conjunction to justify the prosecution of peace protesters.

I’m referring to the 2006 amendment of the SOCPA (Serious Organised Crime and Police Act) that covers trespassing on nuclear sites licensed by the Health and Safety Executive, and was justified by the MOD as protecting “the general public’s democratic right to protest by ensuring that any such protests are conducted in a safe and controlled environment.”

The fact that sitting on the fence with a peace-flag can get you branded as a terrorist is all in our best interest, then.

Well, it has happened to one of the AWPC women. One who is braver than me, and more determined to make a stand against the expansion of the Trident program, even if it is only by sitting on the fence and not—say—entering the base, let alone threatening anyone.

[EDIT: The case has been dismissed. Phew. Looks like the judiciary is keeping government/MOD paranoia at bay. But the issue was a technical one; the new anti terror legislation stands, in all its fearsomeness.]

Another Summer BBQ (!)

Monday, August 4th, 2008

We had two BBQs this year!

Summer BBQ

We could have had even more because, in July, summer came to England (but not to West Scotland).

Now it’s just a happy memory, of course.

Nevertheless, on July 26th, we got John’s work gang and a few mates around for a proper BBQ cook-out. I had a freezer brimming with marinated meats and boxes of free-range chicken wings—bought in a moment of giddiness when the sun peeked out while we were shopping. In addition I bought mince meat, sausages, a heap of roasting vegetables, strawberries, cream, meringue, sticky chocolate pudding and icecream.

Then I made the salads, dips and sauces.

Imagine my surprise when our guests assumed it was a pot luck and brought prime steak, giant prawns, a chocolate gâteau and tinned grapefruit.

Somehow we went through it all. Except for the green salad. What is it with boys and green food?


In other news: we have been adopted by a cat