Mum! Shivaji’s staring at me.

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He’s not made of gold. He’s a plaster statue painted with gold paint and I’m not even sure how we acquired him. I think it might have been on the trip to India just after we we married, when the young men of my Grandmother’s village took the OH to an illicit beer shop whilst I stayed making conversation with my aunts.

The village was, even then, very strongly BJP, (Bharatiya Janata Party,) and, although at the time I did not detect much of the stirring Hindu chauvinism and nationalism, the fact that the young men of the village were coalescing around a youth representative was indicative of what was to come.

So this bust of Shivaji, the Maratha hero and scourge of thew Mughals and British, was presented to my English OH, and has sat on one of our Billy bookcases for more than 20 years.

At first I was quite proud to have him up there watching over us as a reminder of the power of intellectual strength and courage and sheer bloodymindedness. Now, though, I’m not so sure.

A few years ago, a second cousin of mine who is quite famous as an educational standup was giving one of his lectures at the diamond wedding anniversary party of my aunt and uncle, who lived in an historic castle in the countryside. I didn’t catch all that he was saying, but even then, translating for my English speaking cousins, I was quite disturbed by the jingoism of the sentiment he was stirring up. People lapped it up, of course, which is one reason why he is so popular, but I was really shocked.

As you know I visit India regularly and every time I go I see more nationalism and chauvinism and the strengthening of Hindu first policies which don’t chime well with atheist, liberal, feminist me. Of course India is by no means unique in this tendency to blame The Other for anything that goes wrong, but I am witnessing and hearing about the increased marginalisation of minorities and I’m really disturbed by it.

To my dismay, Maharashtra voted for ever more right wing parties in the elections last year. To say one could compare it to a UKIP/BNP coalition is probably an exaggeration, but at the time the rhetoric made it feel a bit like that. One manifestation of this in Maharashtra is the increase in BJP flags everywhere and that major rail termini and airports are renamed after this Maratha nationalist hero, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

We have taken all our stuff out of storage and we’re starting to arrange the objects d’art around our new space, and Shivaji glares at me from my sideboard. MsDD often complains that his gaze follows us imperiously around the room, and it would appear that he is watching our every move like some sort of gimlet-eyed raptor.

I’m not quite sure what to do about it. I am daily more uneasy at the prominence of this symbol of Hindu nationalist ascendency in my new kitchen but I’m not quite comfortable with chucking him in a skip, partly because he makes a good story.

A disclaimer here: I don’t pretend in any way to be an expert in Indian and Marathi politics and I am fully aware of how sensitive a subject this can be, especially when discussed by an outsider with the reviled “Western Values.” All I’m doing is saying how I feel, how uneasy it makes me, how alarmed I am at the chauvinist retrenchment I witness, and I’m trying to do it with a bit of honesty and lack of hubris. Which might not go amiss elsewhere.

Incidentally, that village, that I first visited when I was about three years old (my mum had won some money on the football pools which had enabled her to visit her family for the first time in about four years) was really rural and unremarkable. It is currently proposed as the site for Pune’s next international airport. Progress.

Mum! Shivaji’s staring at me.




My pantry is finished! (more or less) It still needs another coat of paint on the doors and the supports for the granite, and the Sonos needs to be plumbed in again, but it’s finally there.

I suppose you all know that the word pantry is derived from “pain,” and meaning a place to store bread, so my bread machine is tucked away in the corner. It’s a little too big to fit under the cupboards, sadly, but I do have a bread bin that will be nicely ensconced  there, away from the questing nose of Oscar, who tends to obsess about freshly baked bread. Charlotte the hen is there too, you’ll notice.

Apparently it is traditional for a pantry to include a slab of marble, which is why I have had a small granite shelf, to match the kitchen worktop and island, installed in mine. I envisage this as a place to store ripe Brie at the perfect temperature before we dip into it with freshly baked bread. (I’m not sure, Sue, whether we could bring ourselves to house really smelly cheese like your favourite Epoisses in here. On purpose it is designed without any underfloor heating to keep it cool relative to the rest of the kitchen but I still think that would stink the place out.)

When I have tomatoes in my vegetable box, I shall keep them there on that shelf too, because the fridge will always kill their flavour. My pantry is generally a place to keep food and I’m well satisfied with it.

If you’ve ever read “The Help,” you’ll know that Skeeter sits on a low box in the store room off her kitchen to have whispered telephone conversations with her maids and her would-be publisher in New York (I hope that wasn’t too much of a spoiler.) Romantic fool that I am, I imagine these sorts of furtive goings on happening in this pantry.

I am well pleased.


Monday is not really a good day for a concert

So that was quite an enjoyable evening. The North Central High School band from Indianapolis came a gave a joint concert with our Bromley Youth Concert Band. I have no idea why they’re here, other than to come a see a  bit of London, and absolutely no idea how they found us but they had an early supper with our young people and then rehearsed before the concert. I actually felt quite ashamed that I had no idea where Indianapolis was and had to look it up. Having read Wikipedia, I can’t say I’m much the wiser.

Yes, that was a little grudging. It’s a pain to have a concert on a Monday night, which means shifting homework deadlines and an inevitable pile-up later in the week. And MsDD’s school finishes almost an hour after the local schools so she was a little late. Grumble, grumble. Our band were possibly a little intimidating in their formal concert dress that contrasted markedly with American school band in their khakis and bomber jackets. Apparently, pupils at the High School can elect to spend one of their 7 daily classes in band rehearsal as opposed to our organisation being a completely extra-curricular activity.

I spent at least some of the time looking daggers across the concert hall at one of the teachers with whom I still haven’t had a necessary conversation. In the meantime virtual holes were being bored in the back of my head by someone who I thought was my friend who dropped me publicly, ungraciously and suddenly in the summer. It’s her loss.

Mondays. Always glad when they’re finished.

Monday is not really a good day for a concert

On friendship

Friends are great, right? You can have a laugh with them and confide in them your most intimate secrets. You can trust them to be there to support and comfort you and of course you’d do the same for them. That goes without saying.

We make friends throughout all the stages of life and, sadly, we lose them too. If you’re like me it’s through not phoning or losing their address or simply being so busy that the only time your mind rests enough to think, “I must phone so and and so,” you’re driving or in bed late at night and it’s not the right time to call. Friendship needs investment of time and emotional space and many of us simply don’t have time for that when our lives are so crowded with everything else.

My original intense shyness and too many adverse experiences when I was younger often made it difficult for me to bond and start friendships but luckily I seem largely to have grown of out most of my social awkwardness, though it does return from time to time in the form of an intense fear of rejection.

When you have children, though, you’re thrown together with fellow mums and carers at nursery or primary school and there’s your ready-made social network right there.

It is harder for men, though, both at work and if they are carers of children. It used to be that a dad doing the school pick up would be largely shut out from female conversations, though I have seen that change over time, and of course, work relationships are often so adversarial that’s it’s difficult to know how far you can trust colleagues who are also your friends.

Even close friendships do evolve with us over time, though. I have loads and loads of people I know and like but only a few very close friends and it would seem that, now we no longer have children at the same school most of us seem to be drifting inexorably apart. At times I wonder with some of my old friends, exactly how much we have on common, how much we ever had in common. I find myself silently disagreeing with almost everything one friend says, and I can feel her lips pursed in silent disapproval whenever we meet, without even looking at her. And yet, we’re grown-ups. We can manage the situation reasonably well.

Luckily I have made new friends to replace the old worn-out ones at places like dog class and choir. I do find myself wondering from time to time whether I continue going to dog class purely for the socialisation, for the canines and myself.

I do wonder about the young people, though. MsDD, for instance, has bags more self-confidence than I did at her age and, not being particularly a girly girl, has usually had more male friends than female ones. This was fine until quite recently when, for reasons too arcane to be repeated here, one of her closest friends suddenly decided that he would fall out with her. By all accounts he seems to be going through quite a “difficult” phase and, because he wields power in the group, he seems to have taken most of her erstwhile mates with him. When he was away this week, they were all friendly again but as soon as he returned from a jaunt overseas off they went and left her. My heart aches for her. A year ago yesterday at Open Day she went back to the home of one of the boys with her whole gang and played video games and hung out with them. Now she is out in the cold. One of the group even called her their Yoko Ono, which is, I think, a terrible thing to say. Through no fault of her own she finds that she has lost most of her closest friends and it’s heartbreaking to watch. That feeling of being dumped doesn’t get better with age, I find.

So she spends more time with her other close friends but finds it difficult to accept it when they’re not quite on the same page as her in some of their attitudes. MsDD is perhaps rather more progressive in her outlook than even some of her pretty right-on, liberal friends and she finds it hard to accept when their attitudes are perhaps not quite as open-minded as hers. I’ve tried telling her that people evolve and grow at different rates and that often people find it hard to empathise conceptually if they’ve never encountered discrimination and prejudice themselves but I don’t think she agrees with me.

We do all need friends. I am hoping my Boywonder over there on the other side of the Atlantic is finally making some new social contacts. There is, after all, much more to life at University than study. He’s not a hard drinking party animal, though, and I think it’s often harder for someone in their late teens to make friendships if they’re not keen on drinking and clubbing and roistering and doistering.

Recently I find myself blessed with my Twitter friends. They are real friendships, despite what some people might say, and I derive a lot of pleasure and comfort from them. A quick dip into Twitter can relieve the stress of a day, especially for someone like me who spends most of my time alone. Twitter might be convenience friendship but it’s no less valuable for all that.

It is funny, how the definition of friendship has changed over time. Maybe a reassessment of what’s important from time to time is a good thing. What do you think?


On friendship

#Minsgame day 17

3/10/2015  Day 17

I’m still unpacking boxes and trying to sort out the house a bit. We’re making progress with the sitting room – this afternoon was spent mainly in installing light fittings – but I am making a virtue out of a necessity and using a #minsgame post for tonight’s blog post.

I am determined to get myself to Day 30 of the game. I’m not quite sure how long it will take me though.

#minsgame Day 17


  1. There are two banana guards. Yes, we might need one in the future, but no-one needs three, do they?
  2. The loose bottom (no jokes please) round cake tin has somehow warped. It’s obviously one of those instances where I’ve tried to fit the base into the spring-loaded side, run out of time and left it for another day. Well today was that other day. I’ve decided that the base doesn’t fit and I’m chucking it out.
  3. Ah yes. My bun tin. Every year, I make mince pies at Christmas. I never buy them: it’s one of my Things. I use a bun tin and make Nigella’s star topped mince pies. Now, I was told in school Domestic Science classes  “Never grease with pastry,” so I never do. And every year, without fail, my first lot of mince pies, and possibly several lots after that, becomes melded with the material of the bun tin in which they are baked. Every year I vow I’ll sort this situation out but I never want to upgrade to silicone because I feel sure that I’ll check the method next year. (Here let me add that I have actually had batches of non-stick mince pies in the past. It’s not completely an idle hope.) This year I’m starting to contemplate Christmas good and early. I am biting the bullet and throwing out the bun tin. That I have ordered a silicone job from Lakeland in its place is probably completely at odds with the decluttering spirit of the #minsgame, but let us quietly draw a veil over that.
  4. Let us come, then, to the Physics-defying loose bottomed muffin pan. Obviously, a cake batter will leak around the sides of the individual loose bottoms. Which damnfool thought that one up? Which damnfool bought the thing?
  5. The grill pan comes from a built-in microwave that stopped working some years ago. It no longer fits. Out it goes.
  6. Then there is the mezzluna. I’m sorry Nigella, I know that you swear by them, but I prefer a good old fashioned knife. Incidentally, I read in Kitchen that Nigella does not like kitchens with drawers and likes to keep an array of bottles all primed and ready by her stove. Primed and ready and cluttering up the place. I’m sorry but I disagree. I would find that terribly stressful.
  7. Then there’s a pair of jugs. *stifles snigger* Nobody without toddlers needs plastic jugs, do they?
  8. I am not actually chucking out the red Guzzini jar: I like those. I’m just using it to display its contents: loose leaf tea that I must have bought many months ago, and that must have lost all of its flavour. Into the compost bin you go.
  9. The top of the range Gordon Ramsey Bamix blender will have to go too. I’m not a great one for stick blenders. I think being a shorthouse means that I never seem to get them at the right angle but my beef with this blender is that the blades blunt so quickly and I don’t think they can be sharpened. I’ve since bought a Magimix, and I love that so I’ll stick with it.
  10. Some old cotton wool balls, bought, perhaps, for cleansing Oscar’s ears. I needn’t chuck them, I guess, but they are too small to do anything sensible with, unfortunately.
  11. Then there are the plastic storage boxes for halves of apples or onions or other round fruit and veg. Have I ever used them? No.
  12. Yes, that is a turkey baster and no, I did not use it to conceive a Satanic child, #thearchers Tweetalongers. No. I basted a turkey with it then realised that it could not be successfully cleaned. So I kept it, thinking I would come up with a cleaning strategy and I never did. Out it goes.
  13. Yet another disagreement with Nigella: the potato ricer that seemed like a good idea at the time but that is so awkward to use that I’d rather not have it taking up space in my kitchen.
  14. There are miscellaneous labels from our utility room units, left over from when the builders threw it up in a hurry in 2005 before quickly going bankrupt.
  15. There is a stand for some long-defunct chopping boards and then some silver balls for cake decoration that have a Best Before date of November 2004.



#Minsgame day 17

Band refreshments night

This evening I am bristling with indignation at things said and left unsaid and with the sheer unfairness of it all. I have worked very hard this week and sometimes I ask myself why I bother. I need to be heard and it’s less likely now that I’ll have the chance to add my voice.

So here is a picture of some cake and squash. It’s cheery enough I think.


Band refreshments night

Pushing buttons

Goodness, I’ve been running around like the proverbial today. But I’ve had some blog thoughts too.


I would not be ready to push that button. (I know by the way that it really isn’t the case that one person can push one button and thus trigger all out nuclear war and the destruction of the world, but let’s go with the lazy shorthand anyway. It’s late.)

Here’s another apt meme: I’m not a fan of Jeremy Corbyn but…

…I agree with him on this thing. How on earth, after all, can it be an easy to thing to say, to contemplate, that you would be responsible for the deaths, suffering and loss of environment of so many innocent people? If you can honestly say glibly that you would be happy to take that responsibility, well, I’m not sure you’ve thought it through completely.

I could not be the person who started off a nuclear conflict. And I can’t see the point of using nuclear weapons as retaliation for an enemy nuclear strike: what would there to be gained in it? We’d already be dead or severely injured or dying of radiation sickness. Why inflict that on others? It would just cause more destruction, more suffering as an act of revenge and spite. I’d like to think I was better than that.

So, whatever I think of his Utopian Socialist views, I have quite a lot of admiration for the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition’s openly stated view on the use of nuclear weapons. He has maintained his stance over the years when most other politicians have shifted theirs for political expediency.

Actually, that’s a fairly damning way of putting it. I was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the very early 1980s. I went on loads of marches and demonstrations and stood on a war memorial (an act of precedent) in silent, candlelit vigil on Hiroshima Day, to be jeered at by over-indulged kids my age with flicked hair, driving around in Austin Allegros.

My offspring can’t quite believe how we, growing up in the Cold War, faced the ultimate threat from the Soviet Union. I had vivid nightmares where I was hiding under a table, as per government advice, and a mushroom cloud would be taking shape behind my house.

For me, though, the cause of unilateral nuclear disarmament lost the 1983 election for Labour and consigned a lot of poorer people to a lot more misery and I don’t think I ever got over the depressing experience of defending the unilateralist position. And the multilateralist position of Mutually Assured Destruction and the nuclear deterrent was hugely persuasive in those days.

I think, though, that times have changed. Though more countries have acquired nuclear weapons, the world has not become safer. People contend that they have kept the peace but they have not actually stopped wars around the planet, many against countries who have nuclear weapons.

India and Pakistan, both countries with the Bomb, are constantly at each others’ throats and, as people often say, the fact that the USA has a substantial nuclear arsenal did not stop people flying aeroplanes into the World Trade Centre.

It is my feeling that a major threat, quite apart from climate change and environmental destruction, lies from those people who have been embittered and disenfranchised by aggressive foreign policies of governments around the world, including our own. To me, developing nuclear weapons is an act of hubris. Look at North Korea, prioritising its nuclear weapon strategy while its own children starve. Look at any number of countries who prefer to develop nuclear weapons as an act of, well, willy waving, when their people could benefit from things like education, healthcare, basic utilities.

And in these austere times, when there is no money to spend on supporting vulnerable people; young people; people who work hard and yet don’t earn enough to make ends meet, I can’t help thinking that the money spent upgrading weapons that no-one thoughtful could ever want to use would be better spent investing in people.

The Shadow Defence Secretary has openly described her new boss’s remarks about never wanting to use nuclear weapons as “unhelpful.” Well, I wonder exactly what she expects him to say. Does she think any government that might regard us with emnity would think that Jeremy Corbyn, if Prime Minster, had changed his mind? Everyone knows what he thinks. How would keeping quiet about his well-known views help anyone?

And, despite my general dislike of the smugness of our current Prime Minister, I would be very surprised if he would feel happy to contemplate pushing that button.


Talking of pushing buttons, I was overwhelmed today by the need to express my loathing for puns. I despise them.

What is it with people who consciously think them up and use them in that look-at-me-I’m-so-clever-for-thinking-this-up,-aren’t -you-kicking-yourself-that-you’re-not-as-clever-as-me-and-you’d-better-laugh-and make-it-convincing way?

I am not amused. No puns.

Pushing buttons

#Minsgame Day 16

OK, I know this is a bit of a copout but please cut me some slack: I’m having a very busy week:


30/9/15 Day 16

Now, I think @Morethanmum will be quite pleasantly surprised by this as I have grouped my chucking stuff into 16 categories rather than specified 16 items tonight. I have rather more than 16 items of which to dispose today after unpacking a couple more boxes.

It’s a kitchenware-themed post today:


  1. The saucepans were an impulse purchase of a sale item over ten years ago. I didn’t need them then and, now that I have an induction hob, I can’t use them now. They’re OK, I suppose, but I’ve never liked them as much as my Le Creuset and they aren’t even dishwasher safe. I know!
  2. The two children’s aprons are now too small for either of my children. It would be more of a wrench to get rid of these if either of my children had shown more than a passing inclination to join me in the kitchen.
  3. A stainless steel tin with a plastic lid that my mum gave me. It’s exactly the wrong size to be of any practical use.
  4. Then there are the light bulb and water filter that go in our former fridge which is now an ex-fridge and languishes somewhere in the fridge disposal section of a rubbish tip.
  5. The icing stencils to mark out brickwork on a cake. It’s good to be a little ambitious but I don’t think I was ambitious enough.
  6. Then there are numerous Lock and Lock boxes without lids. When we bought these boxes we did not realise that they weren’t freezer proof, especially a freezer that’s so small and cluttered that the food stored in said boxes therein tumbled out all over the floor when the door was opened so shattering the non-freezer proof lids. The sample here is representative.
  7. A burger set, tartlet set and tartlet tins have never been used and I have no idea why I bought them.
  8. Goodness knows what that plunger like thing is. A cooker maker?
  9. Various bits of plastic that go in cake storage boxes that have now left the building.
  10. A curly wurly straw that has now been substantially straightened by becoming caught in a dishwasher. At one time MsDD used these to drink her small beaker of milk.
  11. Sandwich boxes that were large enough only for mini-sandwiches.
  12. One of those cupholders that we used to use at my previous choir. I have no idea why I still have this.
  13. A steamer basket that does not seem to unfold. I have numerous streamers already so have no idea why this is still around.

#Minsgame Day 16

An afternoon in the kitchen

It is my turn to provide refreshments for the Youth Band this Friday. I have a busy to-ing and fro-ing type week planned so I decided to start the mega-bake today.

Out of its packing box, then, came my 16 year old Kitchenaid mixer. It has yet to find its permanent home in our pantry but I hope that will be finally finished next week.

I had never baked cookies before and always imagined them to be rather difficult. They’re not at all and, armed with Nigella’s Kitchen book, I whipped up a few chocolate chip cookies this afternoon, all the while thinking that Hillary Clinton would not be doing this. The new Labour party leader was making a speech at the same time so I was able to listen to it. I’ve never had a TV in the kitchen before, let alone watched in the middle of the day. Scandalous!

I’m still getting to grips with all the many and varied functions of my Desirable kitchen Gadgets but I’ve read enough to be able to use them properly and this week has seen the return of my Abel and Cole fruit and veg boxes. I now have fruit coming out of my ears so one solution was to make a fruit pudding. MsDD dislikes cooked fruit and the OH is ensconced in Paris so I had the crumble all to myself this evening.

I’m also revelling in the final touch to the kitchen proper: the cornflower blue glass splashback that seems to tie the colour scheme together. Bon appetit!

An afternoon in the kitchen