Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Martin Luther King


A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon had enormous expectations riding on it following the massive success of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. At first I found the book rather mundane, rather like the sort of story that would feature in an old-fashioned women’s magazine, and wondered whether I should bother finishing it, but it gathered pace, and the tone became both funnier and darker as Haddon describes how mental illness can creep through lives, never being properly understood or addressed.
In A Spot of Bother, George a retired
middle-aged man married to Jean is beginning to find life worrying. He has developed a real anxiety about dying, and is having intermittent panic attacks. George and Jean have two adult children, neither of whom lives with them. Katie their daughter is a divorcee with a young son and lives with a chap called Ray. Neither George nor Jean like Ray, they don’t think he is good enough for Katie, socially or intellectually. Their son Jamie is an up-and-coming Estate Agent in north London, and is gay – a fact his parents cannot bring themselves to acknowledge. To compound matters, Jean has been having an affair with David, a former colleague of George’s, and is debating leaving George for him.

The story kicks off when Katie and Ray come round with Katie’s son Jacob, and announce that they are getting married. Jean and George, feeling guilty about their dislike of Ray, over compensate by offering to throw a wedding party for them. At the same time, George has discovered a patch of rough red skin on his hip that he becomes convinced is cancer. His GP assures him it is eczema and gives him cream to apply, but George’s anxieties increase. Unwilling to bother any of his friends or family by talking about it and becoming more and more troubled, he takes action, with awful but hilarious consequences. Family rifts, break-ups, reconciliations and wedding hysteria swirl about George as he battles his demons. His bothersome spot has caused a spot of bother and as with the Butterfly theory of chaos, small incidents lead to bigger dramas. Eventually all is untwisted, the wedding takes place, Jamie comes out of the closet, and things return to normal – or do they? George is still suffering from panic attacks, depression and irrational fears. Mental illness doesn’t come to a neat end.

Rated: 3.5*


In 2005, aged 17, Rizana Nafeek arrived in Riyahd from Sri Lanka to work as a housemaid for a Saudi family. Soon after her arrival she was sent to their other home 390 kms away where her employer’s wife was living with her new baby son. Despite having no childcare experience and not able to speak Arabic, she was given job of looking after the infant, and had to bottle feed him. During a feed the baby started to choke, as young babies sometimes do, and Rizana panicked, she shouted for help whilst trying to clear his throat, pat his chest etc, members of the family came running quickly in response to her shouts, but the baby had already choked to death. The distraught family summoned the police and said she had strangled the child. She was arrested. She was not allowed an interpreter. She was not allowed a lawyer. She was made to sign paperwork, which she subsequently discovered was a confession. When the Sri Lankan Embassy managed to make contact with her and got her a translator she immediately retracted the signed ‘confession’. The court refused to listen to her statement, and refused her legal representation. They sentenced her to death by beheading. Rizana is now just 19 years old and the Saudi justice system plans a public execution.

The justice system in Saudi Arabia falls far short of accepted international standards of jurisprudence as has often been demonstrated, but this is truly barbaric. The plan to execute a teenager, who was only 17 at the time of the alleged offence, who was tried behind closed doors with no access to legal representation is savage to say the least. The Saudis seem to be turning a blind eye to fact that the execution of juvenile offenders is expressly prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by Saudi Arabia in 1997. Executing Rizana Nafeek would be a violation of this agreement as well as contravening international human rights law.

If you feel as outraged as I do about this, I urge you to check out one of these links, and join the international protests against this barbarous sentence.

Asian Human Rights Commission

Amnesty International


Tomorrow is the BFCT's birthday. If she were here, or I were there, this is what I would make as a birthday cake/dessert, but as that isn't possible I'll just have to post the recipe instead. Happy Birthday Dee!


12 Digestive biscuits
5 Tablespoons butter

50g soft cream cheese
4 Tablespoons icing sugar
1 package lemon jelly
200ml water
Rind of 1 lemon, finely grated
150g sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
4/5 grenadillas (passion fruit)

Pre-heat oven to 180°C

Put the digestive biscuits in a plastic bag and bash them to crumbs with a rolling pin. Melt the butter in the microwave. Mix the biscuit crumbs and butter together and then press evenly over the base of a 23cm springform cake tin. Place the cake tin in the oven to bake for 12 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

Cut the lemon jelly into pieces and place in a bowl together with the water, microwave on high for 2-3 minutes until the jelly has melted and stir well.

Place the cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, lemon rind and vanilla in a large bowl and beat everything together until smooth and creamy. Add the cooled lemon jelly mix and whisk everything together.

Pour the cream cheese mix into the tin and smooth level. Chill in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

Carefully remove the cake from the springform tin and place on a serving platter. Scoop the pulp out of the grenadillas and spread over the top of the cake. Keep cool until ready to serve.


Anonymous said...

Ooh yum for the cheesecake! If I weren't going out with 18 of my best frends for prawns tonight, I would have produced the cheesecake for them! The weekend is coming!.........thanks for best wishes!

Around My Kitchen Table said...

Your posts are always so diverse but fascinating! Who else could seamlessly surf from Mark Haddon to the Saudi legal system (or lack of) to lemon cheesecake. I salute you!

herschelian said...

Anon: Stop lurking around! I know who you are, give yourself a name. BTW I am glad you are still so "fresh", I am feeling particularly stale at the moment.

AMKT: Flattery will get you everywhere! my family think I have a butterfly brain, flitting from one topic to another - often inappropriately.

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