Thursday, October 12, 2006

I'M FINDING IT DIFFICULT to convey the tone of voice I want in this blog, particularly when I am ranting, I can't seem to just let rip. I've been studying other rants in the blogosphere to see if I can gain some insights, and I 've stumbled across some real scorchers - try THIS to get an idea of what I mean - not that I want to emulate that particular style mind you, and it's not a subject I really have any strong views on either, but that is a rant in every sense of the word. Oh well, you'll just have to put up with me stumbling along until I find my true voice.


Ten years ago I read and enjoyed John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, so when I found a copy of his long awaited second book on my bedside when staying up in Fife last week I was really delighted; and
fromthe moment I started reading The City of Falling Angels I was hooked. It was all I could do to stop myself booking a plane ticket and departing for Venice there and then. Many, many books have been written about Venice (or are set in Venice), travelogues, serious tomes on Venitian art and architecture, history, as well as crime, romantic and literary fiction. Berendt has written about Venice from a very different perspective. He writes -with a light, slightly gossipy style- about the Venetians, and through them the reader gets a wonderful portrait of this magical city at the beginning of the 21stC. He has used the burning of La Fenice , Venice's famous opera theatre, the criminal investigations which followed the fire, the convoluted machinations between various groups to get the theatre rebuilt, and the rebuilding itself, as the backbone of his book. Woven around that strand are encounters with an amazing cast of characters, The Rat Man, Count Volpi, Olga Rudge (Ezra Pound's widow, the feuding brothers, and any number of Contessas and Marcheses, not to mention the various English and American expats who have made Venice their home. His descriptions are so vivid that you can smell the damp, the hot chocolate at Florians, the seafood and the sewers. You can see the hoards of tourists who are the life-blood of the Venetian economy and paradoxically are destroying the city by their very numbers. You watch with amazed amusement as the various "Save" Venice organisations jockey for pre-eminance and prestige. This is a wonderful book, and I had to keep reminding myself that it is Non-Fiction, and that ALL the characters are real people and use their real names. If you are going to visit Venice for the first time, read this book; if you already know and love Venice, read this book; if you are an armchair traveller, read this book. You WILL enjoy it!


What is the latest and most desirable fashion accessory for women who must have it all?

A Birkin handbag by Hermes (a mere snip at $50,000)? Or a whopping big diamond ring?

No - it is a cute little black baby from an impoverished African country.

Conspicuous compassion is all the rage, Angelina Jolie does it, and now Madonna has just picked up a toddler from Malawi – from 12 little boys from around the country who were brought together so she could make her selection. Not unlike choosing a handbag, or a puppy.

Malawi has a law preventing out of country adoption of children, but faced with the opportunity of having a wealthy western pop star giving a large amount of money to an orphanage in the country they have speedily changed things so that she can adopt this baby boy. Of course if you or I were to go to Malawi and attempt to adopt a child, the situation would be quite, quite different. Why is that? because we wouldn’t have that sort of money. In effect, Madonna is buying this child, like buying a handbag, or a puppy.

Let’s think about the orphanage she is having built, will it be run by the Malawians according to their cultural beliefs and norms? or by one of the many NGOs who have laboured long and hard against poverty, disease and deprivation in central Africa? No, it will be run in accordance with Kabbalah beliefs and thinking with staff selected, appointed and paid by them. The same whacky group of Kabbalah adherents that Madonna has joined in recent years. Yes folks, the same group of believers who got her lobbying our government to clean up nuclear waste by using Kabbalah water - you don’t believe me? This article from The Sunday Times will explain all.

As far as this particular child is concerned, yes, Madonna and her husband are wealthy enough to support him; they may also be emotionally determined to love him, warts and all, for the rest of his life. All well and good, but why do it at all – she has no links to Malawi, she already has children, she has not stumbled on a child in immenant danger of death and saved him; she has decided to make a gesture, and the spin off is she will look caring and compassionate – ahh.

However that may not necessarily be what is best for this child. He will be with a family who are racially, culturally and economically far removed from his own. Where will he feel he belongs? He will never fit back in to his own community in Malawi again, nor will he ever be totally grounded in which ever country Madonna decides to keep him – rootless for ever. When in Family Court, a plan for the care of a child is being considered, we have to work through a welfare checklist and take account of many, many factors to determine what may be in the child’s best interests. It is not easy to get right, and very easy to get wrong. To whisk in to a foreign country accompanied by a huge entourage, spend 10 days there, and whisk out again with a baby tucked under the arm is terrible. This is a human being for god’s sake, not a handbag or a puppy.

I am not a particularly frugal person, in fact my DH is always yelling at me to switch lights off, but I do hate to waste food in the kitchen. So what do you do when you have some bananas which have all become over-ripe simultaneously? (silly me, I put them in a fruit bowl with apples) I like my bananas verging on the greenish side, so the only way to use them up before they become totally vrot is to make something with them. This recipe was originally from The Times Calendar Cookbook by Katie Stewart, and when the kids were at primary school and took packed lunches, I used to make it regularly. In fact, like many of my family recipes, I used to make a double or treble quantity and freeze the extra loaf. [BTW a treble quantity will fill 2x medium (20x12x8cm) loaf tins.]


Pre-heat oven to 180°C

Grease and base line a small (18x10x5cm) loaf tin

175g self-raising flour

½ level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon mixed spice

100g castor sugar

50g chopped walnuts

2 medium sized ripe bananas

1 large egg

25g melted butter

Sift flour, salt, and mixed spice into a bowl. Stir in the sugar and walnuts. Peel the bananas and mash to a purée with a fork. Add to the dry ingredients along with the egg and melted butter. Using a wooden spoon stir to blend the ingredients and then beat thoroughly to mix.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf tin. Spread the mixture evenly – make a slight indentation in the center to compensate for the rising process. Place the tin in the center of the pre-heated moderate oven and bake for 1 hour. Turn out on to a rack and leave until cold. Keeps well for several days in an airtight container. Freezes well.

Serve sliced and buttered.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Definately with you on the Madonna thing, to use an old phrase it sticks in my craw. Also with you on the finding a voice thing. I seem to blog best when my emotions are roused in some way. Trouble is at the moment I'm just knackered and slightly fluey.