Thursday, March 30, 2006

Glastonbury, the movie

As some of you may be aware, The Glastonbury Festival has been a bit of a centrepiece of the last four summers I've had in the UK. Sadly (but understandably), there's no activity in the Vale of Avalon this year (which begs the question, where will the Scrumpy bus guy get rid of his excess production)?

Micahel Eavis commissioned JulienTemple to produce a film about the festival in 2002, the first year of "superfence". Eavis was worried that the fence could destroy the unique atmosphere of Glastonbury, making it the last year. He was wrong, Glastonbury has survived, and the film is about to be released in Britain.

Here's a preview of the film from The Observer.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Knowledge or humanity

British Museum trustees' decision to return human remains to Tasmania was harder than we expected

Helena Kennedy
Tuesday March 28, 2006

Two bundles held by the British Museum, made of kangaroo skin and closed by a drawstring, are unremarkable, but contain human ash gathered from a cremation fire by Tasmanian Aboriginals in about 1830. They are extremely rare physical traces of a population nearly exterminated during European settlement in the 19th century. This genocide, in which the indigenous people were shot for sport by farmers, was one of the most shameful episodes in British colonial history. The last full-blood Tasmanian Aboriginal died in 1888, but the original population continues to exist in the form of Tasmanians of mixed Aboriginal and European descent. And it is their representative body, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, that has asked for the return of their ancestors' ashes.

The law prohibits trustees from disposing of any part of the museum's collection - a sensible measure to protect against short-term financial or political pressures. But it has long been obvious that human remains are not like other objects held by museums. Descendants are distressed that the remains of ancestors have not reached their final resting place, in accordance with indigenous customs. And when, as in the case of the Tasmanian Aboriginals, those ancestors suffered such an egregious wrong, that distress is likely to be very intense.

Last year parliament passed a law recognising the unique status of human remains in museum collections, and enabling trustees to transfer ownership when appropriate. British Museum trustees welcomed this change; indeed, we helped draft a code of practice to accompany the law. Now the trustees could return human remains where the burial process had been interrupted, which includes the ashes in the bundles. But should they? That question proved more complicated than we expected.

The bundles were filled with the cremated ashes of a family member, then carried close to the body as amulets to protect against illness or alleviate physical pain. There is no way of knowing what would ultimately have happened to these two bundles had they not been collected by an outsider as records of structures of belief and religious practice among the native Tasmanians; it seems likely that they would have been laid to rest in a particular place in the landscape, perhaps in a tree or somewhere in the bush.

But - and it is a big but - these are now the only two such bundles known anywhere in the world. That means they are the only surviving physical evidence of a whole system of belief and a social order that has since disappeared: precisely the kind of object the British Museum was established to keep and preserve. In our present state of knowledge the ashes can reveal no further useful information about the health or physical history of the people when alive; but who knows what knowledge might one day be derived from them? As trustees, we had to consider if we could responsibly allow the loss of what might be the last possible information about Tasmanian Aboriginals.

The debate was difficult. How do you weigh a possible advance in human understanding against the desire of a community of people to see the return of the ashes of recent forebears so they can be disposed of with appropriate ritual? Which course of action will lead to greatest public benefit? Might a later generation of Aboriginal descendants deplore the loss of the already slender material evidence of Tasmanian customs? How will that loss look in a hundred years?

The trustees consulted three outside experts and the museum's own curators. There was much debate on fact and law. Eventually we unanimously decided that the ashes should be transferred to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.

· Baroness Helena Kennedy QC is a human rights lawyer and British Museum trustee

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006

Mary's Beetroot and Feta Salad

In the wake of ever increasing requests for the finer details of the famous beetroot & feta salad that makes an appearance at every Pyrland Road party, herewith is reproduced the recipe: (c) & (tm) Mary Massina.

Buy either small beetroot or large bulbs (in UK, buy those little beauties pre-cooked in the bag - ed) - think its at least half of a large per person. Cut into quarters, don't peel, and oven roast at 180 until soft but not mushy - could take at least 30 - 45 minutes.

Cool and then, wearing gloves, peel - the skin should come away when rubbed.

Cut into small bits into a bowl.

Then add finely diced red onion and oven roasted capiscum - which you can buy in a deli but if not I tell you how do it later!

Mix up a dressing of balsmic vinger and olive oil and 1/2 of sugar.

Mix through and let stand - the longer the better

Then crumble feta on top and when ready to serve mix through - carefully! and don't forget to add another lot of feta on top for looks!

Oven roasted caps - put a whole capiscum into the oven and cook, probably at the same time as the beetroot until the skin starts turning brown - take out and put in a plastic bag to sweat - that way the skin is easy to peel. Or buy a jar of them at your local Turkish shop - ed

Peel and discard the seeds and the "pith" cut into strips.

You can also do this over the gas - buy turning the capiscum once the skin is charred. and then peel as above.

Don't forget if you have any left over caps cover them in olive oil - that way they keep for ever!!!


Twas my birthday on Saturday. Obviously, we had a BBQ. Katie organised it par excellence.

Kicked off @ 2pm, ended about 5.30am. It rained, we bought a gazebo, (£12.99, Argos) Champion!

There's some photos from my camera here.

Simon's got some (beautiful resolution, gotta change to SmugMug) more here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The London Drinker 2006

Summer must be on the way, 'cos it's beer festival season again. A bunch of us went to CAMRA's London Drinker Beer and Cider festival at St Pancras Town Hall last night. The place was rammed and sweaty. A couple of firsts and lasts. Firsts- Nick and Sarah have now been broken into the fine world of real ale, and I'm sure will go out and preach the gospel to the good people of Tasmania. Lasts-Simon and Holly are buggering off real soon, and last night was more than likely their swansong CAMRA event before heading back to the land of Toohey's New, Swan Gold and ummm golden beaches :(. Weirdest beer of the night must go to the foreign beer that Nick chose (and John wound up drinking) that had a nose of kippers and bacon. Dunno the name of it, but will try and find out. Bizarre.

Apologies for the break in firebombing

"They're only small trees that have no value as sawlogs"

Well, there's been basically no change in Tasmania's political makeup after last weekend's election. Lennon's "Labor" government was returned to majority power, the greens have probably lost one (and major party status), and the pisspoor libs may take the Education Minister, Paula Wriedt's seat.

And, apparently, the Monday after election day, Forestry Tasmania declared that the soil dryness index or some other such nonsense measurement was "perfect", and therefore firebombing of devestated logging coupes could continue unabated. Nothing to do with keeping the skies clear and the smoke out of voters' lungs during the campaign.

Well, Tasmanians, you voted for it overwhelmingly I guess. That's democracy.

Here's a report, and video footage of a current burnoff operation from the Wilderness Society's Geoff Law.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Weekend in Brugges

Katie and I took the Eurostar to Belgium last Friday. Two hours from London Waterloo to Brussels Midi, then an hour on by local train to Brugge. Train is certainly the way to go, especially when it ain't run by Richard Branson.

Brugge is a beautiful city, protected by UNESCO listing. Main industry seems to be tourism, followed very closely by CHOCOLATE and then by BREWING. Say no more.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ve recover ze Porsche

Lenz and Steveo came over from Germany last weekend to pick up Lenz' latest project, a Chervil 356 replica. There's some pix of various aspects of the operation here. Would have liked a photo of the boys driving wrong way down a bus only street in Hackney though!