Friday, February 02, 2007

Not this year it doesn't, this is the mildest winter I remember since I came here from Africa umpteen years ago; thought provoking, worrying, what IS my carbon footprint?


So Many Ways to Begin by Jon McGregor was listed for the Booker Prize in 2006. I read and enjoyed his first novel and I think that this, his second book, is even better.

This is the story of a life, of a marriage, and of beginnings. It starts with David as a small boy growing up in Coventry in the late 40s and 50s, he is fascinated by found objects, and spends hours grubbing things up from bomb-sites which he keeps in his carefully arranged collection. He loves museums, the smell of them, the idea of keeping things which provide people with a link to the past, and he is determined to work in a museum when he grows up, but is determined that “his” museum will have no replicas, nothing “made-up”, as he says that you cannot learn history from anything made up as it isn’t true, it’s a lie.

And sure enough, he becomes a curator in the first museum in Coventry. On a trip to a museum in Aberdeen he meets Eleanor, and whilst courting her he inadvertently discovers that he is not the natural child of his parents, he is adopted. However, the adoption was never official, and indeed his late 'father' had always assumed David was his child, the only people who knew otherwise were his adoptive mother and an old family friend. This information rocks him to the core. His life has been based on a lie, he is not who he thought he was. He takes out his anger and distress on his mother, refusing to speak to her for many weeks and causing her great unhappiness. Eleanor abandons her family in Scotland, she and David marry and settle in Coventry, where she become increasingly depressed; David discovers that her beginnings are not ideal either; she had a very difficult childhood, suffering constant maternal abuse, both mental and physical. Eleanor begins to suffer from severe depression which dogs her off and on all her life. Time passes and they have a daughter in whom they both delight, but David’s desire to know about his birth and his true beginnings eats away at him. The lack of knowledge of who he really is comes to the fore when his daughter Kate has to do a family tree as a school project. After their daughter leaves home David decides to make a serious attempt to trace his birth family, and through the internet he makes contact with a woman who thinks she maybe his half-sister. He and Eleanor go to Ireland to meet this woman, and to meet her mother who is now an old woman. To the sadness of both he is not the son she gave up, and she is not the mother he is seeking.

Perhaps the beginning is not what he thought it was, perhaps his beginning was when his adoptive mother, took him in her arms. McGregor is marvellous at making the reader look at the minutiae of life, and ponder on how small chains of events can have large personal consequences. Cause and effect. The same idea was explored in the film “Sliding Doors” with Gwyneth Paltrow. We can all look back at our lives in that way…if I hadn’t missed that bus I wouldn’t have met… because I was on a business trip I discovered…and so…two minutes later and I’d have been in that motorway pile-up…one could go on and on, after all, there are so many ways to begin.


Her Majesty’s Government, Gordon Brown in particular, don’t think that the airlines are doing their bit for the environment, and to help reduce CO2 emissions caused by burning fossil fuels. So what have they done, they have increased the Air Passenger Duty as of yesterday. Who pays APD? Not the airlines that’s for sure, it would reduce their profits; no, no it is each and every passenger who will pay. The airlines will just act as glorified Tax Collectors for the Treasury

The various Government spokespersons can go on TV and radio as much as they like making self-righteous speeches about this being part of the Government’s environmental strategy to help stop global warming, and trying to make us feel all warm green and fuzzy about them, but it won’t wash, at least not with me. This is yet ANOTHER stealth tax

Why does our Government not take a lead and make the airlines pay tax on the fuels they use, that would focus their minds on the environment. This increase in the APD merely taxes individuals (who are already paying several sets of taxes in order to take a flight), and puts money into the Treasury’s big pot. They might use it for environmental causes, but then again they might not, the money is not being specifically ring fenced.


I've been in court all day - Family Proceedings; emotionally very draining, so it's lucky I prepared dinner yesterday evening as my darling daughter and her squeeze are with us tonight en route to skiing/snowboarding in Avoriaz - is there enough snow what with this mild winter?


Serves 6

Pre- heat oven to 140°C

1 Kg lean pork, cubed
250g chorizo, peeled and cut into chunks (do NOT use pre-sliced chorizo, ask for cooking chorizo)
2 medium red onions peeled and thickly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
400g tin of chopped tomatoes or tomato passatta
1 tin (420g) chickpeas, drained
300g roasted red peppers in brine or oil, drained (I buy these in a local Greek Cypriot greengrocers)
250ml white wine
12-18 pitted black olives
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
Saffron, generous pinch of strands
2 Tablespoons wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil.

Put the cubed pork, chorizo, red onion, and garlic into a large flame proof casserole. Cut the drained red pepper into large pieces and add them, together with the wine, passatta, olives, and chickpeas. Put the strands of saffron into a pestle and mortar (or a cup) and grind to make a powder, pour the vinegar onto the saffron, stir, and add the mixture to the casserole. Drizzle the olive oil over everything, season well with salt and pepper and stir the whole lot together with a wooden spoon. Place over a medium heat and bring up to simmering point. Transfer the casserole to the pre-heated oven and cook for 1½ -2 hours until the pork is tender and everything has amalgamated. Can be kept for 24 hours if needed before heating again and serving.

Serve with rice and/or crusty bread with a green salad – and a large glass of Rioja!


Reluctant Nomad said...

That pork and chorizo looks good. Some time back, I posted my own concocted recipe of beef and chorizo stew. I think you'll like it.

But, now to get to your rant on my post about Moffies and mossies, all I can say is READ properly and you will see that I am just as colonial as you are! So much for you being a reader! :-)

Reluctant Nomad said...

Btw, the recipe is here

realdoc said...

I would try your casserole but my kitchen is out of commission. Will try it when I get my lovely new kitchen.

Anonymous said...

My daughter has just started her 3rd grade at Herschel Girl School in Cape Town and I was wondering if your pseydonm is possibly related to your schooldays...?

herschelian said...

Hello Anonymous - you guessed correctly, I did spend my schooldays in Claremont, and very happy they were too - hope your daughter has as much fun and makes as many friends there as I did ;-)

Anonymous said...

You bet - having arrived from Europe in '99 (London throughout the 90ies and Germany before), raising her here is like time travel to my Grandparents era, sanz corporal punishment of course ;-)

Jeanne said...

Oh, that looks just glorious! Pork lightly flavoured with pork,
lol ;-)

And I hear you about the bloody passenger tax. The worst is that the government has admitted that the funds raised form this tax will not be ringfenced - so it's not as if you are paying your £10 or whatever to plant a tree. It will probably go on housing failed asylum-seekers or something... Grrr!

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