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Archive for April 2012

Rubbernecking a Dead President (and other misadventures)

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Mon Histoire

(c) Jo Spiller, All Rights Reserved

In the past 10 days, I’ve taken off 9 times and landed in 6 different countries. I’ve had a brilliant week of work in Malawi and a conference presentation in Antwerp.

I’ve spent more time than I ever want to again at Nairobi airport and know more about the Machiavellian world of competitive flower arranging than I ever thought possible.

I filed past the coffin of the late Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, drank Belgian beer with the coolest girls in Antwerp and almost went the way of Mama Cass in Paris, choking to death on a ham baguette.

I’ve returned with a suitcase full of honey and Gin from Malawi, Speculoos spread and some very salty licorice from Amsterdam and of course, chocolate from Belgium.

Hmm, what to cook with that little lot!


Written by Spiller

April 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Malawi bound

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Procrastinating. Packing, Procrastinating. Packing.

Back in a couple of weeks.

Written by Spiller

April 14, 2012 at 11:29 am

The Dukan Diet

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two can do the Dukan too

Seriously, if that isn’t already their advertising slogan, don’t you think it should be?

So I was more intrigued than anything else as to what a protein-only three day ‘Attack Phase’ would look like. Apparently, you can eat as much as you like from ’72 different foods types’. But let’s not kid ourselves here, we’re talking 72 ways with meat, fish and fat-free dairy. Dull, chewy and uninspiring – it is death by translucent cottage cheese. Slightly improved on the second day when I realised you could still use garlic, chilli, mint and coriander.

I had to celebrate surviving 36 hours of this regime with two very large glasses of wine (officially rendering my participation on Monsieur Dukan’s very un-french diet null and void).

Despite being on this regime for only the very shortest possible time I did still become fixated with the food I couldn’t eat.

But what surprised me was the specificity of what I was craving most. It wasn’t the sweet things, despite sugar being most explicitly interdit – not chocolate, ice-cream, biscuits, cakes – I didn’t crave them at all.

A nomadic Saharan once told the journalist Ryszard Kapucinski,

“The desert will teach you one thing. That there is one thing that one can desire and love more than a woman.”

“And that is water.”

Well three days on the Dukan Diet taught me that there was one thing that I could crave and desire above all others.

Pak Choy!

(the photo is of the pretty divine and very ‘un-Dukan’ Turkish Delight I made last week)

Written by Spiller

April 12, 2012 at 7:12 pm

the village green

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In the heart of Middle-England-Shire, there’s a village of no particular distinction. At the heart of this village of no particular distinction is the village green. Everyone loves the village green, especially those who overlook it and have watched down the centuries all the children who have played there, the country fairs held there, the bowls that have been bowled there, the cricket stumps that have fallen there, the cups of tea drunk there, the sandwiches and cream cakes eaten there.

It’s the heart of the community and whilst most people are happy to enjoy it by casually rolling out a picnic rug, lying back munching sour cream Pringles, others perceive the village green as the living breathing embodiment of the community. They give it such reverential significance and weightiness that there’s no space in the sentence for more than one word. For them it is The. Village. Green.

But as the village of no particular distinction grows in size, those who have long been perceived to live beyond the village limits and therefore ineligible to enjoy the green space at its heart are gradually, relatively, now closer to the centre of the village than ever before.

The original demarcation for the village boundary has long been superseded by a succession of freshly painted lines; each time the lines are laid down, the circumference of the village grows just that little bit wider, like a thickening waistline. The same people who struggle with the freshly painted lines and are nostalgic for the ancient village boundary are protective of The. Village. Green. and who should and should not be able to use it. They do not feel that The. Village. Green. should be for those who live in the thickened girth of the village but reserved for those who are at its ancient core.

So a compromise is reached. A separate space is created outside the original boundary of the village and called The Municipal Garden. You wanted green space so now you have got your green space, you wanted a game of cricket, now you can play your game of cricket, you can hold your country fairs and play as much crown green bowls as you like.  And yes, whilst acknowledging that The Municipal Garden is a positive step towards addressing the needs of the enlarged community, there is something inescapably symbolic in the exclusion.

The. Village. Green. is for us and the Municipal Garden is for you.

But if we are one village of no particular distinction we should all play the same games of cricket and crown green bowls, share the same green spaces. And when I say green spaces I’m talking about the village green, in lower case, with the picnic rug and the sour cream pringles not the one punctured by full stops, capital letters and reverential pauses.








Written by Spiller

April 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm