Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

How to Make an Eton Mess

In stuff on June 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm
A delicious raspberry Eton mess

Traditionally served in the tuck shop at Eton College, this deliciously fruity strawberries-and-cream based English dessert is the perfect recipe for a hot Summer’s day.


3 large egg whites

175 gms golden caster sugar

1 punnet strawberries

1 pint double cream

A dash of port


    1. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until they stiffen to form soft peaks.

    2. Slowly add the caster sugar and continue until completely mixed into the egg whites.

    3. Put rounded dessert spoons of the mixture onto a lined baking tray and bake in the oven on a low heat for approx. 1 hour.

    4. Leave the meringues to dry overnight, or until cold.

    5. Mash strawberries together with a little icing sugar and a dash of port.

    6. Lightly whip double cream.

    7. Fold the strawberries, meringues and softly whipped cream together and spoon the mixture into serving dish.


Amy’s World

In stuff on June 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm

A good teacher knows that working with children is really a blessing. As exhausting as teaching can be, it’s a profession which allows for creative freedom,  and children can give you the opportunity to think in a different way. Through children, we can learn to free up our innate synaesthetic leanings so that blue is not only calm but also associated with Tuesday, The Present Perfect, and Mum’s blouse. These associations  become lost as we get older and are forced to order and appraise the world in a more ‘organised’ and ‘rational’ way.

Working with 11 year old Amy was a huge challenge – a Ukrainian child who had very little English, but spoke fluent Italian, Ukrainian and Russian, in addition to a smattering of several other languages –  she would code switch at any opportunity, as if her brain was unable to contain and differentiate between all the linguistic information it possessed. After one particularly frustrating morning,  Amy sat announced “I don’t like…” followed by a long list of her grievances with countries, family members and the world in general. I began to think that her abrupt refusal to work and extreme mood swings were more than mere tiredness or an inability to understand the material we were covering. It was at this point that I was told that Amy had undergone many operations to her brain as a child, which had initially rendered her unable to talk or even to move, after a tumour was removed.

This helped me to understand why she had such difficulty interacting with the other children, why she would try to lock the classroom door during the lesson to prevent other people coming into the room, why she refused to go downstairs during the break and wanted only to play noughts and crosses on the board every day. After about four days together, things started to work better as I began to understand Amy. As I hit upon  strategies to keep Amy focused on her work, her moods became less erratic and she responded extremely well to exercises involving number patterns or pictorial stimuli. Providing a generative situation with a cartoon coupled with a tactile object (a radio shaped like Homer Simpson’s head) proved very effective for the introduction of new grammatical structures, and I began to find her receptive and, in fact, quite a pleasure to teach. She was certainly unlike any other child I’d taught. Amy didn’t want just to play the games; she wanted to design the games. Although she couldn’t speak Korean, in her mind she was quite fluent. The soft toy cat on her chair was as real as any animal, and the  references she made to her favourite things (Obama, Berlusconi, foxes, huskies) during exercises or games, or when I praised her for grasping new vocabulary or a new grammar point, were an expression of her happiness and satisfaction. Viewing groups of things she likes as connected, ‘odd one out’ questions can involve only preference. A very interesting way of looking at the world!

This little girl certainly taught me the value of play in the classroom, and in life in general. She also reminded me of  the importance of listening and responding to the way students think and feel as opposed to simply teaching by the book. The artist, the architect, Amy is constantly recreating the world and she may well create something quite amazing when she grows up. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to teach her, and will work hard not to forget the lessons that she taught me.


Why I love Johannesburg

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Anyone who knows me would tell you that I’m a food lover. I will hardly ever say no to something I can eat, and I think that might be why I love Joburg so much.

Despite every bad word that is said about the city and the small handful of people that make life difficult for those who just want to live and love, Joburg is like that all-you-can-eat buffet at a five-star hotel where you stand for minutes on end and anxiously look around at the platters and offerings because you don’t want to miss something.

 And in Joburg it’s easy to miss the best things.

 You usually begin with the entrées and appetisers at the buffet: the soups, the salads, the breads – these are the little things that initiate you into Joburg city life, like dodging taxis, crawling carefully over green traffic lights, dealing with tired and stressed people every day, smelling the whiff of exhaust fumes as you step out of your door, and putting up with all the little things that annoy people on a day to day basis.

People, politics and debate would make up the meat of Joburg. Because of the sheer number of people that live in the city, you could have an unending conversation on the state of the economy or the issue of land, or any number of concerns that make way into the hearts and the minds of the populace at any time. Perspectives on every subject are as vast as Africa itself, and there is a healthy – some would say an unhealthy – mix of opinions from people as varied as Nigerians and Congolese to Zimbabweans and Afrikaners.

You can’t have a balanced meal without the starch, the environment  in which these debates can place flourishes: Johannesburg stretches over 2 500 square kilometres.  You can drive from one side to the other and encounter a massive range of classes, cultures and wealth, and somehow over three million people manage to get by on a substandard transport system, accepting one another without spilling their coffee.

But Joburg offers up an excellent dessert, my favourite aspect of the city – come to mention it, of any meal. Creative spaces abound, from theatres such as the Market Theatre and the Foxwood Theatre to art galleries such as Arts on Main and Artists Under the Sun; from fashion design stores such as Black Coffee to universities and design schools; from restaurants such as the layman’s Kentucky Fried Chicken and the connoisseur’s Karma to markets offering organic food and products; from monuments to the past, sports stadia and theme parks to green spaces filled with laughing families and events over the weekend. These spaces are what bring people together and see an awesome mix of culture and personality, and a touch of permeating humour.

But the cherry on top is Joburg’s people: with diversity comes tolerance and acceptance, charity and kindness, sharing and learning. Joburg is a delight to the palate of the person looking for a living meal, looking for life.

Story by Roane Swindon 

Vintage in London

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2011 at 11:07 am

Portobello Road Market  buzzes with a hive of people hunting for vintage bargains, antiques and knick knacks.

Absolute Vintage at Spitalfields Market is wonderful for 1950s and 1970s floral print A-line and shift dresses.

  The Saturday Market at Hackney Empire  – a goldmine for all things chic and cheap.

Top two photos:

A Nation of Weiners?

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm

There’s a  bulwark of support surrounding Congressman Anthony Weiner, even after his admission his admission that he did send those now infamous twitter pics of his pecs, even after members of his own party are seeking to disown him. A terrible liar – Weiner’s guilt was pretty apparent from the offset – why else did he redirect questions from the press when they wanted to know why he didn’t want to investigate the ‘hacker’ responsible for causing him so much embarrassment? Why couldn’t he say for certain whether said pictures were of himself? Weiner could learn a thing or two from Bill Clinton,  he lied with poise and dignity. Weiner squirmed and barked until he finally caved in under the pressure.

Yet, there is a lot of sympathy for this guy: his behaviour is chalked up to “Alpha Male Syndrome” essentially a classic case of ‘boys being boys’. Nobody batted an eyelid when JFK did it, Clinton bounced back with relative ease and dignity and I’m guessing Arnie will follow suit. John Edwards, well that’s a different case because where terminal illness comes into play, people tend to feel that those ‘boys being boys’ should grow up and take a little responsibility for their actions.

Alpha Male Syndrome

An endorsement of  destructive behavioural patterns deemed to be adaptive for modern life. Essentially, it’s a great way to excuse yourself by claiming that anything you do is “society’s fault”.  In short, Alpha Males have high levels of testosterone, so high sex drives, are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviours (like having affairs), they are aggressive and competitive.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yemen’s Opposition Urge Confirmation Saleh No Longer In Charge

In media on June 8, 2011 at 11:25 am

In a telephone interview from Sana’a today with Bloomberg news, a representative from the Yemeni main opposition party Joint Meeting Parties, Al-Mutawakkil, stated that the party will give Vice President Abadurabo Mansur Hadi several days to “resove this issue” and confirm that he has assumed the duties of the recuperating President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh is currently recovering in hospital after sustaining serious injuries caused after a bomb was planted inside his compound last week (initial reports attributing the injuries sustained to a rocket attack on the President’s palace have since been discredited). The injuries are reported to be more serious than originally thought –  Saleh is receiving treatment for burns covering 40 per cent of his body, and one anonymous official has stated that Saleh is suffering from bleeding inside his skull.

The Joint Meeting Party are seeking  for Hadi to make his leadership as acting president official so as to avoid a continuation of Saleh’s rule. This comes after a recent escalation of violence in Yemen following Saleh’s refusal to sign the Gulf Corporation Council plan in which he was offered immunity from prosecution if he agreed to step down from the presidency within 30 days, and to hand over power to Hadi.

Hayseed, indeed.

In Uncategorized on June 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm

“Hayseed”” he calls me.

And not in an “Oh, I’m so charmed by your Mariette from Darling Buds of May attitude to life” way, but in an annoyed ” you’re a Luddite, and a backwater hick hindering my social progress in this sprawling metropolis” fashion. Ah London, Smokesville, the place where the streets are paved with gold and  where Dick Whittington came to seek his fortune.

Without a travel card, I didn’t get very far. In fact, I didn’t even make it to my first day at work.

“8 pounds, I had understood it was six something, I’m afraid I only have…” I checked my purse and pockets for loose change “six sixty”.

Of course, the man behind the glass window at the underground station didn’t care. “It’s 8 because it’s peak time, get the bus”.

Then I sure as heck would be late, the bus took an hour and a half, goodness only know what it would take in rush hour traffic. I opened my mouth to reply, but he was already onto the next person and I felt desperately helpless. How rude! In the countryside I’d hitch a ride into town if I was stuck, but that never happened. There was always someone around to help out with an offer of a lift, and I’d do the same for anyone else.

In London, well…it seemed like the city was populated by sociopaths, entirely ego driven, self-motivated individualists all out to compete against each other. Back home, Joe helps Tom because he knows he’s going to need him in the future (so it’s not all altruism, but rather a practical concern). Here, who cares? You’re never going to see this person again so why lend them 50p for the tube or let them call their boss from your mobile. I rarely see competition inspiring collaboration in London, it’s really more Social Darwinism – a survival of the fittest thing. Knowing that cows lying down is a sure sign of rain, or that the red sky at night means a fine day tomorrow, is pretty useless here. I have yet to figure out how these are transferrable skills. The MA in English Lit doesn’t seem to by significantly aiding my marketability either. I have to admit, on days like this I’d rather be  picking cider apples and swimming in the river than tearing my hair out  at Elephant and Castle station. Hayseed indeed.


In Uncategorized on June 6, 2011 at 10:50 am

Persian food is so delicious! We simply couldn’t resist making these Koobideh kebabs yesterday, after popping into Persepolis in Peckham and talking to the lovely Sally, who is a fount of knowledge on all Persian culinary  matters.

Koobideh is a relatively easy dish to make, and tastes just wonderful…

You will need:

  • lamb or beef mince, finely ground
  • 1 grated chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • turmeric
  • cumin
  • salt to taste
  • 1 egg
  • basmati rice
  • 2-3 tomatoes
  • sumac for seasoning rice and kebabs


1) Combine minced meat, onion, cumin, turmeric and egg in a bowl and mix thoroughly

2) Add salt to the meat for flavour

3) If cooking on a BBQ, put meat onto flat metal skewers, otherwise lay meat flat and score vertical lines along meat in baking tray so the meat can be split into kebab shapes during cooking

4) Turn meat over once during cooking to ensure it is cooked through

5) Serve hot with grilled tomatoes, raw onion, hot peppers and basmati rice with sumac.


Modern Relationships

In Uncategorized on June 6, 2011 at 10:04 am

The Good, The
Bad and The Ugly

How do you know when
you’ve met ‘the One’?

 Story by Poppy McDonald

Growing up I watched couples holding hands as they strolled along the pier, and dreamed of sharing ice-creams with a tall, long haired Nordic man whose charm was equalled only by his professed adoration for my many indefinable, yet somehow wonderfully captivating qualities. I’ve heard so many times that there’s someonefor everyone, and I tried so hard to find a soul mate – someone who shares my taste in films, who laughs at the same things I laugh at, who serenades me with music,
and who inspires me with kindness and confidence.

Friends and relatives have met their future spouses, married, divorced and remarried in the time I’ve wasted deliberating about this.  I’ve literally spent years worrying about whether this was ‘love’ or whether this one was finally the One. Numerous poor sods have been sent packing, with classics such as “you’re too nice” or “ I’m sorry, but I feel the relationship just lacks something”. After a while, I had to admit that maybe the problem wasn’t with them after all, it was entirely possible that I was the reason for my own unhappiness.

That ineffable spiritual connection which sees lovers gazing goo goo gaga across a restaurant table, or an old couple sitting in quiet contentment has always seemed like the unobtainable and unreachable goal. A child of divorce, I constantly looked for a man who could understand me. So when I finally met that special someone (‘the One’?)  I waited four and a half years to ask whether he too felt we had something special, a connection beyond words? His reply that our relationship lacked the spiritual dimension he had felt with his ex was poetic justice. Oh yes, my friend. Here was a man being brutally honest with me, and yes siree I’d finally met my match.
My masochistic urge kicked in if not this one then who? If ever there was a soul mate for me, it must surely be this man who values me less than all others. It’s God’s cruel joke that women love the bad boy.

“Isn’t it enough that I love you because you’re here?” he asked me plaintively. No! I thought. Love me like we’re in a Shakespeare play, with passion and devotion, love my hair, my perfume, the way I talk, my cooking, my guitar playing, or the way I twirl my hair when I’m nervous. I need you to love something specific about me because otherwise I’m simply interchangeable with any other woman, and
that hurts me because it makes me feel unimportant, useless even. But I couldn’t explain it to him, and he legitimately couldn’t understand why I was upset. I know now what has kept me from being on the same wavelength as my
previous boyfriends. It really wasn’t them; it really was me. If you’re not open to love and you’re too blinded by ego or personal vanity, and the traditional sappy romantic expectation which materialistic culture feeds us, how can you ever hope to have a real relationship?

After a few relationships, I’ve stopped lusting after my fantasy of Sven and I really couldn’t care less what a man looks like. I’ve also come to a realisation of why I couldn’t meet the man of my dreams, and although it may be unromantic, this is a truth worth telling. The fact is that there is no ‘spiritual, ineffable connection’ which lasts,  no romance novel happy ending of enduring passion which binds two people together. After the exciting thrills of the honeymoon period, love is practical above everything else. It’s sticking together through thick and thin, it’s when he takes me to the dentist after I’ve chipped my tooth, when we celebrate his job promotion, when we relax with a movie and enjoy a nice home cooked meal and a bottle of Beaujolais.

In my relationship the strange feeling I had wasn’t from anything lacking, but rather a nervous energy for something that needs to be created. It took me a while to realise that what I wanted was simply a life together that’s yet to be built. And every day is another chance to make our relationship stronger, and an opportunity to create new memories of an enduring love.


Why taking your kids out of school is the best thing you can do for them

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Angelina Jolie’s recent announcement that she would rather her children read a book, or devote their time to gaining new experiences like  learning how to play the guitar, than attend a school, may fly in the face of education purists; however, she’s not alone in viewing alternative educational methods as more progressive and effective. Any teacher worth their salt will admit (and incidentally I am one) that if you have the cash, a private tutor is the best way to go.

Larger classes do provide a social dynamic which is certainly important for children, but it is definitely possible to find other ways for your children to interact with other children their own age, through clubs, playdates etc. Without a doubt, children who do not attend a school, if educated effectively at home, are not necessarily placed at a social disadvantage. Actually, my experience of children who were homeschooled was that they had a much better developed understanding of people of all ages, and were therefore better equipped to deal with people and to befriend those significantly older and younger than themselves. This kind of social intelligence is incredibly beneficial in adulthood.

When I attended school, I worked hard but like many other children found the syllabus unchallenging. Attending NAGC classes after school and studying in my private time certainly saved me from a crippling intellectual boredom. Growing up a rural home-counties girl, it was perfectly normal for children to be taken out of school on a sunny Summer’s day to go horse riding with their parents, and I certainly made the most of my ‘free time’, discovering Dickens and Shakespeare, French and German, all amidst the beauty of the English countryside. As Ms Jolie said, our experiences certainly shape our development. The current front page news stories regarding low literacy levels in UK schools reveal a shocking truth about the current system – it simply isn’t working. Homeschool if you can, your children will be a lot better off in the future.