Thursday, 3 September 2009

Spaghetti Squash

Is it a pasta smoothie?
Is it a racquet game involving bolognese sauce?

Maybe you know about this phenomenon (known variously as Zucchino or Vegetable Spaghetti) but, if not, let me tell you and prepare to be amazed. It looks like any other squash, rather fat and boring if I'm honest. Bake it whole until soft inside, (test by poking with skewer), splice it in half, gouge out its seeds (this is all quite physical work but so simple you could do it blindfold with one arm behind your back when drunk), then take a fork. Then, then - and this is exciting the first time you do it at least - no, I'm not going to tell you. It'll spoil the moment.
Maybe I've said too much already. But if you Google it all manner of things come up, as you would expect of Google. Like pasta, it needs flavoursome sauce.
In 1957 the best April Fool ever was 'spaghetti trees' - well you probably know that too. It was on Panorama and the spoof was both loved and criticised.
This however is TRUE.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Me and Madonna

Welcome to my d├ębut blog! I would have planned to set the scene with thumbnail biography and what to expect from my ramblings. But this bit about Madonna came up and although I don’t lie awake at night pondering possible common ground between me and Madonna, (apart from striking physical resemblance and singing talent) the similarity struck me at once. Madonna at Bucharest, Romania; me at Women’s Institute. Well, not exactly … I could empathise though.

National press told us last week (first spotted in http://bit.ly/Ynybr) that, at first, fans politely applauded the Roma performers sharing a stage with Madonna. ‘Then the pop star condemned widespread discrimination against Roma and the cheers gave way to jeers. The sharp mood change that swept the crowd of 60,000 … underscores how prejudice against Roma remains deeply entrenched across Eastern Europe.’

Me at various meetings, as author guest speaker on Gypsies and Travellers, Past, Present and Future. Woa! Big subject! I would report thus: ‘After a warm reception, as ‘issues’ were explored the air turned frosty; arms folded and one sensed murmurings of ‘green-belt’. The advice afterwards was to bring along Gypsy crafty objects that the audience could see and touch and less of the campaign, please.’

I try to redress the balance, to explain what might lie behind negative views held by mainstream society. Author of ‘Last Bastion of Racism’, Dr John Coxhead, helped explain to me the psychology of entrenched attitudes. ‘Many attempts to position the ‘other side’ of the story about Romanies, Irish Travellers and Roma are ridiculed or scorned … people feel a lot of the things instinctively … and the psychological process behind bigotry means they often drown out conflicting ‘facts’ (cognitive dissonance) to keep their existing ‘world view’ intact …’ He pointed out that the audience was probably thinking, ‘for you to be presenting this ‘alternative’ angle you must be biased but in fact we know the real truth, so we dismiss what you’re saying, and we’ll carry on thinking the way we do now thank you very much.’

Should I stick with the books? Forget the talks?!

Well, maybe it’s a tenuous link, maybe not, but on the one hand, “Romanians watch Gypsy soap operas, they like Gypsy music and go to Gypsy concerts,” said Damian Draghici … In some way, people hang on to the romantic notion of Gypsies living in gaily painted wagons; the pretty bits of their lifestyle they can accept; but refuse to try and understand the plight of the modern Traveller.

For the future my ramblings will be like that box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.