Wednesday, February 28, 2007

USE IT UP, WEAR IT OUT, MAKE IT DO, OR DO WITHOUT... I'm tightening my belt in March.

You and I ,
dear blog reader, are very fortunate, we have our sight so we are able to read the printed word - indeed you are reading this post. In the past three years I have had some serious problems with my left eye resulting in several operations which have saved my sight and for that I am very, very grateful. To be unable to read is one of the things I most dread, so when I came upon this piece written on Dovegreyreader's blog it went straight to my heart:

My name is Clare Gailans. I am totally blind and have used braille as my means of literacy since starting school at five, that's to say for over 40 years. I have always told people what a wonderful system braille is, and had imagined it would always be offered to those who need to use it to read. Technology makes it very much quicker to produce now, and the Disability Discrimination Act requires information to be produced in it if it is the most appropriate format for the recipient.
This is all very well for us adults, but it is becoming clear that shortages of qualified personnel, money, or perhaps just plain arrogance, are creating a situation in many mainstream schools where blind children are not taught braille, and those with useful sight are often denied it until their sight has further deteriorated. By this time many of them already hate reading, which is a huge extra strain on them throughout the school day - a stressful time for many children at the best of times.
Apart from the people close to me, books are my first love and I came to them through braille. Books can be listened to with enjoyment, but this is not literacy. I could not have enjoyed sharing my love of books with others through email, or made virtual friends with so many lovers of books such as Lynne, without being able to write, spell and punctuate. Listening to voices as a poor second to literacy would not have taught me these things.
Without first learning to read words I could not have mastered music through braille notation, which has been the key to my employment for the past 25 years, and my obtaining a degree in music from Cambridge before that. Braille has also been the difference for my husband and me, through such activities as music and chess, between being merely tolerated in the sighted community and being fully accepted, indeed sometimes looked up to, for our contributions.
It has helped me in a variety of voluntary activities, and to instil a love of reading in our two sighted children. I could not run our household efficiently witout it, in every department from cooking to labelling the many reams of paper which have to be filed, and which without braille would all feel identical."
There is an online petitionto ask the government to make the teaching of braille available for all blind and partially sighted people which I have signed - it can be signed by any UK citizens and I sincerely hope you will consider doing so. As tomorrow is World Book Day it seemed particularly appropriate to consider how much the ability to read means to me, rather than to talk about a particular book.

No music on a summers evening at Kenwood this year. Well I can’t say I mind too much, over the past few years the summer concerts have become just big noisy overblown events that we no longer attend.

For 55 years there have been outdoor musical concerts by the lake at Kenwood House, a beautiful neo-classical house on the northern slopes of Hampstead Heath in north London. As we live fairly close by, my DH and I, our children, friends and neighbours used to go to one or two concerts each season; we’d pack a picnic, several bottles of wine, some rugs, cushions, and black bin liners (in case the weather turned wet) and troop off to lie on the grass with other north Londoners and enjoy the music which was always of a very high standard. One or two of the concerts each year would end with a firework display.

Then, some years ago, English Heritage took over the management of Kenwood House and its grounds. Tents selling various overpriced drinks started appearing on either side of the grassy slope where most people sat and picnicked. The ticket prices went up steeply. The concerts started to have fireworks more frequently. From being concerts of classical or chamber music with the occasional foray into opera or jazz, they became more populist. Last season had, amongst other delights, Art Garfunkel and His Band, Sinatra Under The Stars, The Time of Your Life – The Music of Dirty Dancing, The Four Seasons, Dancing in the Streets - The Music of Motown. Corporate Hospitality tents sprang up to enable businesses to entertain their clients at the concerts. As if that were not enough, the concerts started being advertised very widely, and coach loads of visitors came from as far afield as Guildford and Milton Keynes. In the past few years English Heritage has been selling 10,000 tickets for every concert. Ten thousand people at Kenwood – it was getting ridiculous - far, far too many; they usually came by car, and the streets on all sides of the Heath were clogged with traffic and people trying to park. To match the expectations of audiences paying the higher ticket prices, and coming from far and wide, the music started to be amplified with special hi-tech equipment, so that it could be heard by everyone who lived in the vicinity and some distance away too. Local residents finally had enough and complaints to the local council started to snowball. Finally, Camden Council have ruled that they will only grant English Heritage a license for eight concerts this year, not ten, and they must cut the ticket numbers to 8,000 per concert. English Heritage grumpily says that is not economically viable, so they will not put on any concerts at all.

They have killed what used to be a wonderful summer tradition through sheer greed.

Who says you can’t teach an old ‘dog’ new tricks? A dear friend was celebrating his 60th last weekend, and I was asked to make the birthday cake – specifically a carrot cake. Well, I have made more carrot cakes than I’ve had hot…well, maybe not QUITE that many, but a fair few over the years. I have always used the same tried and trusted carrot cake recipe and I’ve never had any complaints. However, for some perverse reason I decided to abandon my usual recipe and instead to use the recipe I'd read on another blog. Some months ago, Reluctant Nomad posted his carrot cake recipe on his blog, and so I tried it out. All I can say is, it is the BEST. When you read through it, it seems much like any other carrot cake recipe in terms of ingredients etc, but somehow it turns out to be the ┼░ber Carrot Cake of all time. Which is a long-winded way of saying that I am not posting a carrot cake recipe, click on the side bar link to find Reluctant Nomad's blog and check his archive for November 7th 2006 to find his recipe.
But I am posting a recipe for the icing which a birthday cake demands!


175g cream cheese
175g softened butter
250g icing sugar (sieved)
½ teaspoon vanilla essence

Put all the ingredients into a bowl or food processor and beat/whiz together until smooth and creamy.
Spread over the top of the cake - et voila!


Reluctant Nomad said...

So you agree it's the best? I'm glad you do as it really is special. I can't remember if my post said where I got it from. It was from a CNA book called, I think, 'South African Vegetarian Cookery' that came out in the late seventies or early eighties. Amongst the worthy lentil patties and suchlike, there were a few other gems but that cake stood out.

In my post I say it doesn't need icing but you're right when you say that a birthday cake has to have icing.

That braille piece was very moving.

Oh, since you're a firm believer in my mouse extermination programme, I can inform you that a third one has just bit the dust. I wonder how many more there are? F**kers!!!!

charlotte said...

A veritable smorgasbord of interesting items here, Ms Herschelian! I like the carrot cake recipe. I've just made my first, and it was so delicious and my kids loved it so much that I must forge onwards and try new ones.

Reluctant Nomad said...

Tomorrow, I'll be having a go at another favourite recipe that I'll probably blog about so keep a look out.

Matt Wardman said...

A note to say thanks for covering the Kenwood Concert hash-up. I used to live off the South Side of the Heath:

My take is that they killed the Golden Goose:

"English Heritage has cancelled its Kenwood House evening concert series for 2007. Some in the Metropolitan media are getting distinctly snotty."

Anonymous said...

[url=]zIVIwSJI[/url] , YEsjTpypMsjXs -

Anonymous said...

For more information about this app, visit the official site of MP3tunes Locker.
The Mc - Manus home is still a work in progress, despite the impressive art on the walls.

You should narrow down your potential list of schools based
on your criteria, but you should still plan on visiting more than one to give
you a sense of comparison.

my web page Top 20 US UK Music