Making A Difference

For some reason, certainly for a reason I cannot explain, I thought of a time many years ago back in Susan Lawrence Primary School in Poplar. The girls had been separated from the boys for one lesson and our teacher, Herbert Enever, decided to read part of a book to the boys. He read a long passage from C S Forrester’s “A Ship of the Line”. It described how a British ship in the Napoleonic Wars brought the force of its cannons to bear upon a French Army marching on a narrow coastal rad with no means of escape.  Continue reading

Memories- the Cheerful Rent Collector

In about 1953 my family moved from one room in Drury Lane to a newly completed estate in Poplar – the Lansbury estate, named after one of Poplar’s heroes. The part of the estate to which we moved surrounded the newly built Chrisp Street Market, and our part comprised of one of seven maisonettes above shops that fronted the market. From one part of the maisonette, we could see the market and the Clock Tower, and from the other part we could see a bomb site. There was a public house – the Festive Briton – on one side and Aunty Rose (we called all neighbours Aunty or Uncle in those days) and her old mother. Continue reading

Memories: scents of the city

I cannot easily recall a scent but if I smell a scent, a scent of the city, the aroma will open a memory of my youth. I remember on hot Saturdays in Poplar’s Chrisp Street market, the stall selling saveloys and faggots mixed with the smell of the stall selling bananas and the dust of the diesel bouncing off the hot tarmac of the streets and the concrete of the pavements all mixed up with the smell of humanity. Smelling a faggot or saveloy on a hot day brings back what it was to be young, foolish and innocent.

How to Make A Greek Salad in Poplar in 1959

I think that we were the only Greek family in Poplar in 1959 but making a Greek Salad there in those days was different from making one today. The essence of any Greek salad is the ingredients, and the only rule about the ingredients is to use what is fresh. If there is no fresh ingredient, then do not use it. This is how we did it. Continue reading

Horse Meat in Ready Meals

When my mother made food for her family the process was quite laborious. She had to go to the shops at Poplar’s Chrisp Street Market, which were directly under our maisonette. If she was making a lasagna or a spaghetti Bolognese or what we called “rondes” but are now known as hamburgers she bought beef from the butchers – not the best cuts because no one ate filet in Poplar and then the other ingredients from the Home and Colonial a few doors away. She would buy fresh vegetables from her favourite market stall and bring them home.

She set up her mincing machine which was a steel affair which screwed onto the table for support, minced the beef and then prepared the ingredients and cooked the meal. She had selected the beef and minced it herself.

Today most people will buy lasagna ready made from a supermarket. It saves quite a lot of time. The companies that make the lasagna that sell it to the supermarkets do not do an industrial version of what my mother did. They do not go to the abattoir or wholesale butchers to select their beef, but buy it ready minced from companies that buy the beef and mince it.

I guess if you buy beef that is ready minced it must be quite hard to know the quality of what you are buying. If you choose the meat as you but it and mince it yourself I doubt whether you could mistake horse meat for beef.

Food processing companies must frequently buy ingredients which they have never seen, never selected and never processed until they put them into the meal that they are making. Companies like Findus must have bought ready minced meat, rather than buying cuts of beef and supervising the mincing of it for their meals. The industrialised process must mean that mistakes will happen with the ingredients or that unscrupulous people who get involved in selling the ingredients will sell them food that is different from what the food processing company meant to buy.

The problem is the scale of the food production and the distance between production of the food from the making of the food. It seems quite normal to food processing companies based in England to buy ingredients from Poland, five hundred miles away and further. The further that your food has to travel, the more risk attaches to the quality of that food. Not only will you risk the food being brown or produced in unhealthy conditions or in ways that affect the environment adversely, but you will also suffer the deterioration of the food by the travel and the loss of taste that chilling or freezing usually brings to most foods.

It has been reported that the discovery of horse meat in could be disastrous for the meat processing industry; that would be no bad thing. Proper controls and accountability over all food ingredients would mean higher costs for ready meals. Perhaps people could cope with those higher costs by eating smaller portions. That also would be no bad thing.

The Artificial Nature of Markets

Stock Markets throughout the world are marking down prices. This has been partly due to computer stop loss programmes and partly due to panic; are the stocks and shares worth in a recession as much as they were worth in good times? We are told that we cannot buck the markets and that the markets will find any weakness and exploit it. For ten years of my life I lived above a market; not a stock market but Chrisp Street Market in Poplar, which was then full of fruit, vegetable, food and stalls selling the kind of things that you would today buy in a modern supermarket. What struck me was that there was then almost no price differential from one market stall to another. My Mother did not “shop around” on what were her daily visits to the market which the back of our maisonette overlooked, but went to but from the stallholders that she liked and trusted. Continue reading

Carbon trading does not reduce carbon emissions

The carbon trading scandals under the Kyoto Clean Development Mechanism continue to grow. The original point of the Clean Development Mechanism was to reward environmentally friendly energy projects with valuable “carbon credits” in order to create an incentive for them, so that they could take place. The clean project earns carbon credits which can be traded for real money on the artificial carbon market.

Obviously there is no point in awarding carbon credits for projects that are not genuinely “clean” but that are exactly what is now going, and it is happening on a grand scale. Instead of acting as the incentive to make clean projects viable the Clean Development Mechanism and its associated carbon credits are quickly becoming a way for large companies to clean up, in the financial sense rather than the environmental sense. Continue reading