Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Free food - the gleaners

OK I enjoy a bit of tucker now and then (arcane language learned from Billy Bunter books), and if it comes free of charge, so much the better. And right now we're in the gleaning season, and it has been a bumper crop. The hedgerows have had an abundance of blackberries and damsons. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to come across a wild plum tree, with the ripe fruit dropping off with the lightest tapping. At the weekend I'm going to checkout my favourite row of chestnut trees to see how the crop is this year - it hasn't been too good for a few years.

Last weekend while walking on a right of way across a harvested potato field out at Bradfield, with ease I picked up half a rucsac of spuds left behind by the quick and labour-light machinery. The previous weekend I saw dozens of older people at Bures loading up bags on their bike crossbars, stuffed full of onions missed by the mechanised farming processes. I didn't have any bags with me so I couldn't join in. I wonder if I could have got away with "give those to me, I'm the landowner"?

And tomorrow it's apple picking day. I'm off with some pals (something like "Last of the Summer Wine") to a secret location in north Essex, on the site of an old WW2 US airforce base, where, so the story goes, the guys planted pips from their apples, and we now have some very old but still productive wild apple trees. Some for eating, and some for freezing, methinks.

So where are all these free food places? Well I'm not putting the locations on here am I? Sharing it with many thousands of others. Anyway, it's too late for much of this stuff. I was warned by Facebook pal Louise Denyer that "Andrew, you should know that the optimum time to pick blackberries is before the end of August otherwise they are "Devil's food" and are very bitter!" I told her I don't believe these old wives' tales about "the devil's food". Anyway, I had picked them to smear on my forehead and cure my baldness.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

An evening with three Shane MacGowans

It's the South Stand at the Community Stadium, and the occasion is Colchester United v Charlton Athletic, a match I couldn't lose as they are two of my favourite teams. The match kicks off and Charlton are looking impressive. After ten minutes the three empty seats next to me are filled by a guy, with his uncle and his nephew. They were all drunk, smelled of booze and sweat, and spoke in two languages; English and Profane. The family had crooked and missing teeth, and clothes that looked worse than the old ones I use for decorating. They all looked, smelled and sounded like Shane MacGowan. I have no doubt they were pleased to be sitting next to a pompous snob like me.

Colchester looked outclassed by second place Charlton, but their effort and persistence paid off as Charlton were pressured into an own goal. Could Colchester hold on? Yes, they scored two more and kept a clean sheet, so a good evening's work ending in a 3-0 victory in front of over 7,000. It was a very inspiring performance by the Colchester underdogs.

But what did the three Shane MacGowans make of it? Well they too were very enthused by the team's efforts, spurring them along with their liberal use of the F-word, sprinkling their sentences with the vigour that I shake salt over fish and chips. However, to their credit they didn't make a single racist or sexist comment, although they did suggest that the referees may have poor eyesight linked with self abuse, and that their parents were unmarried.

An evening of top entertainment on the pitch and in the stands. And Shane Two next to me, had a cough so bad that it could only be relieved by a couple more cigarettes.

Monday, 28 September 2009

De Magnete

Plunging into darkness, I entered Holy Trinity church on Saturday, walking in from bright sunlight to a blacked out nave, lit only by a dozen candles in the aisles. Ahead of me, a screen appeared as my pupils dilated to their maximum, to compensate for the low levels of illumination I was experiencing. Amidst cracking and buzzing sounds, I saw a woodland scene, as the camera panned around. (And I won't describe any more, as you need to see this for yourself.)

A short film by Kathleen Herbert was on show, "De Magnete" in celebration of Colchester's "father of electricity" William Gilberd, who was born in the town and buried in that church. "De Magnete" was Gilberd's publication on "electricus", a term he developed, and distinguished from magnetism.

Says Gilberd "The electric effluvia differ much from air, and as air is the earth's effluvium, so electric bodies have their own distinctive effluvia; and each peculiar effluvium has its own individual power of leading to union, its own movement to its origin, to its fount, and to the body emitting the effluvium." (From De Magnete.)

Was Herbert's film to be a documentary? Or would it be a Derek Jarman style "Jubilee", comparing a first Elizabethan thinker with a contemporary viewpoint? Or would it be Don Van Vliet's "Electricity" in the medium of film?

Catch it for yourself, and experience the spirit of nature and the elements, captured on video.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Bicycle powered smoothie maker - is it work as we know it?

Whilst in charge of the blendavenda this week, an old friend of mine, Mr Paul Bradford, randomly turned up. We exchanged pleasantries and insults, as he looked at the exhibition on transport options to North Colchester Business Parks. I was employed as local transport expert, especially on foot or by bike, and was providing free smoothies as an ice breaker for passers-by who may have otherwise been a little shy to engage with us friendly folk. The lovely Paul asked if I was being paid for this work, implying that this is not a proper job. (This from a man who earns his living by drawing lines on paper, and putting numbers into tables.)

And it got me thinking about my job, and what I do. What is my job, over and above the usual "good husband/ father/son/friend" roles? I'm pretty comfortable with my task to help people change their travel habits, reduce their carbon footprints, improve their health, and reduce congestion, fumes and noise. If that sometimes involves looking like a clown on a pedal powered contraption, serving up mashed fresh fruit, that's cool with me. But my paid employment part-time with Colchester2020 is only an aspect of my "job". I also do a bit of freelance work.

But I have another important job. I am also Frank's pancreas, an urgent practical task for the here and now, contrasting with the sometimes longer term environmental policy work that pays my wages. I'll leave it for others to judge what is the most important, and which is the most effective work.


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