Friday 25 December 2009

Happy Christmas

Hope you all have a great Christmas day if you are celebrating, or else a great holiday season.

There's more, much more, which could be said about the annual consumer-fest (you can tell where I'd be going, can't you) but who's got the time at the moment.

So, for now, here's a surreal photo of our Christmas tree...

Also, this is quite funny (and mercifully short) - this 'jingle bells' video clip is doing the rounds on Asian/Indian websites - big belly, big beard, I knew Santa Claus was really Indian:
[ok, so now it's been taken down, you really missed out...]

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Snowy White Christmas in Eltham, London

This is a bit of a picture post (click on any photo to enlarge it, then Ctrl + minus or plus). As you can tell I am totally entranced with the snowy state of south-east London (though pretty terrified about driving out on the ice). The picture on the left is our back garden, and on the right a view of our street.

Also following the snows on Thurs/Fri 18-19 Dec, a sunnier view of our street (top left) and of the back of a forlorn Eltham Train Station (top right).

Then, just as we thought it was all over, the snows came down again during the afternoon of Monday 21st. I happened to be meeting hubby and the children in the high street (they had just been to see Santa at Ruxley Manor, Sidcup - they said it was good, well worth it) and snapped the two photos above of the lovely old church, St John's, which sits on the main crossroads where Eltham High Street meets Well Hall Road. I know that not much of the church is visable but the scenery looked so pretty with the Christmas lights. Btw, you might be interested to know that the church has been the subject of some wonderful 'guerilla gardening' recently - you can read about it here.
And finally, just as we returned that day to our snow covered car, here's a festive view of the wonderful Normans Music shop in Well Hall Road - long may we continue to have such independent shops in our high street.

'Blogging may be light' (as they say) with all that is happening at the moment - we are off to the Mother Goose panto at Greenwich Theatre tomorrow; we've been for the last three years and Andrew Pollard's productions (and his dame) never fail to disappoint. I hope you all are having a safe and lovely time, whatever you are doing, and even if you are doing absolutely nothing! Ciao.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Let it snow, let it snow

OMG it is a whiteout out there! This part of the south-east of London is now officially under several inches of snow, with more falling heavily.  Will university be open tomorrow, will the trains be working and will the kids' primary school be closed on what would be their last day before the Xmas holidays?  Time will tell. I shall wait to see how things lie in the morning.

At least I can say that Greenwich Council have had the gritters out earlier this evening. Pretty snow photos to follow tomorrow (hopefully).

Saturday 12 December 2009

Jay Sean goes up with Down

Just over a month ago I noticed something. The Asian diaspora were raving about a first which seemed to have gone un-noticed initially in the 'mainstream' media. It was that Jay Sean, a 28-year old singer, had made it to no.1 in the USA 'Billboard Hot 100 chart' with his single 'Down' - notable because it was the first USA no.1 by a British artist in ages and because it was the first British-Asian one (e.g. BBC Asian Network ran this interview on 12 October).

However, other media soon caught on. I was struck by the headline and double-page spread in the Evening Standard (image above) on 16 November. It goes for the 'transformation' angle - though instead of  the usual 'rags to riches' it's more 'local to global'. JS was afterall training to be a doctor and his parents were 'well-settled' (to use that particular phrase common in diasporic circles).

The Independent also later had this interview. For those not familiar with Jay Sean, the Evening Standard sums up the basic story like this:

"Actually, Jay Sean — real name Kamaljit Singh Jhooti — is a privately educated former medical student from Hounslow, the son of a second-generation Sikh businessman father and a Delhi-born beautician mother. And his “sudden” success is the result of seven years of hard graft and attention to detail. His meticulous management of his own sound and image has seen him walk away from a £1 million record deal with Virgin, set up his own record label, change his musical direction and even choose a stage name free of ethnic connotations in order to offer “a musical product free of labels, agendas and race."

As you can imagine, plenty more angles to be taken up here - for example, there's some debate about whether he could have made it without changing his name (though the answer may lie in snappy marketing rather than racial affiliation). I was also interested in the Jay Sean frenzy because JS is from Hounslow, next door to my old home town Southall, in West London - there are hundreds of musical wannabes there who will be inspired by his story. Good luck to them all (though, like an Indian aunty, I'd have to advise - try and get your education first, eh?)

You can visit lots of YouTube videos to see him in action - amongst them this live performance at the University of Hertfordshire from 2007 in which he also sings in Punjabi too (something he won't be doing a lot more of, I'm guessing).

Oh, and lastly, I look forward soon to seeing this postive success story about an immigrant son on the front pages of the Daily Mail or Express. No? Just saying.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Levy's Small Island on the small screen

If you're interested in migration, history, separation and loss then this dramatisation might interest you. I loved reading Andrea Levy's novel, Small Island (2004) a few years ago and shall be glued (if I can get the kids to bed on time!) to this adaptation over two Sunday evenings.

Small Island is Andrea Levy's award-winning story of Jamaicans and Londoners involved in World War Two. Part of the reason she was inspired to write the book was because her own father was on the now-famous SS Empire Windrush in 1948 when it set sail from Jamaica to England.

The drama starts tonight on BBC1. Andrea Levy's narrative switches between four protagonists. The first, Queenie, is Gilbert's white landlady; they met during wartime when he came over as an RAF recruit. Returning on the SS Empire Windrush, he looks her up and takes a room in her house. Hortense, the Jamaican girl whom Gilbert married immediately before boarding the boat, arrives later to share his crumbling attic room; and Queenie's long-lost husband, Bernard, finds his way back, a year after his demob, shortly after Hortense has taken up residence. The year is 1948.

Promo clip here:

The BBC site also gives us this useful collection of links:

Saturday 5 December 2009

'BNP hijack Mitcham Remembrance Day'

This is Local London reported yesterday on this politicising of a Remembrance Day event:

"The BNP hijacked Mitcham’s Remembrance Sunday event, parading a party banner in front of the War Memorial and duping residents to appear in a photograph.

The propaganda shot has since appeared on London Patriot - an extreme right-wing website - sparking fury among those in the picture who believed it was a photocall for the local newspaper.

Witnesses to the event, which happened moments after Mitcham’s Remembrance service finished on November 8, said the BNP banner was deceitfully handed to a group of children at the front of the picture and quickly hidden away after the shot was taken.

Daphne Adkins, 64, was looking on the memorial for the name of her grandfather who died in World War One when the photocall was hastily assembled around her. She said: “I thought it was just disgraceful. We were completely oblivious to what was going on and I can’t imagine many of the other people knew either. I just thought this was something for the local paper organised by the British Legion. Remembrance Sunday has nothing to do with these people. It was sneaky and disrespectful.”  You can read the rest of this story here.

As various 'tweeters' have commented, "tricking kids into holding their banner, how low can you get?"

Sunday 29 November 2009

'Chick Lit'

I was astonished to find in my local library row upon row of shelving boldly titled 'Chick Lit'. Chick Lit? Yes, I know what it is, but I didn't realise that the term was now a formal category adopted by learned houses of book-lending. So astonished was I that I snapped this photo in the library, which is in the London Borough of Greenwich. 

I am more used to seeing the chick lit label on the backs of books or in Sunday supplement reviews, often in the same sentence as mentioning the Bridget Jones books rather than in library settings. I would be surprised to find a 'chick lit' section in our university library (I must ask our university Librarian her views on this...).

One source describes this 'genre' as "genre fiction within women's fiction which addresses issues of modern women often humorously and lightheartedly.The genre sells well, with chick lit titles topping bestseller lists and the creation of imprints devoted entirely to chick lit. It generally deals with issues of modern women humorously and lightheartedly. Although sometimes it includes romantic elements, women's fiction (including chick lit) is generally not considered a direct subcategory of the romance novel genre, because in Chick lit the heroine's relationship with her family or friends may be just as important as her romantic relationships."

Other sources too see 'chick lit' as linked to feminist themes and protangonists. So here the use of 'chick' is an appropriation of a previously dismissive/pejorative word used for women, much in the same way that the n-word (for 'black' people), or 'queer' (in 'gay' circles) are sometimes used.

It made me think about fashions in genre-naming. When will those other contenders - eg. 'mommy lit', 'curry lit', 'lad lit' etc. - see their name up in lights?  The reality is, of course, that local libraries, keen to hang on to Council budgets, are merely trying to cater for their audience (alongside now providing IT facilities) - I guess that 'chick lit' is a large category and does what it says on the tin, in a more exciting way than 'Fiction A-Z', as the other fiction shelves are named.  Though quite where they'd shelve Jane Austen, I don't know...

While I'm writing about library shelving categories (did I really just write that? That is worrying, I've got to get out more...), I had to chuckle when I saw an 'Eastern Journey' shelf (one-sixth of the space of 'chick lit', I might add, covering the whole planet east of Turkey!) complete with lotus flower decorations!  Come on Library, that is a bit 'eighties don't you think?

Saturday 28 November 2009

Jute Wallahs - the Dundee-Kolkata connection

If you ever go to Dundee (Scotland) don't be surprised to find a pensioner speaking in Hindi to you...

Do you know about the intruiging, close connection between Dundee (Scotland) and Kolkata (India, then Calcutta) which ran over several generations? No? Nor did I until I watched a fascinating documentary last Sunday on BBC2, narrated by the actor Brian Cox who himself hails from Dundee.

During the 19th century the population of Dundee swelled with migrating workers who came to work in the jute mills using this raw vegetable fibre imported from Kolkata. However, there was a steady decline in the Scottish jute mill industry from the 1870s onwards, causing many Scottish workers actually to migrate from the east coast of Scotland to the South of Asia.  A bit of a reversal of today's trend...

After India's independence in 1947, the indianisation of industry meant that the Dundonians had to learn to work alongside, rather than over, the Indians.

The documentary gives many insights about the relationship between Dundonians and Kolkatans at each stage of their see-saw relationship. In India, we see how the Scots tried to learn Hindi in order to communicate with their workforce, the party lifestyle of some of the Scots, and some of the terrible conditions in which the jute workers worked. Back in modern day Scotland, we see interviews with some of the now-aged Scottish returners, including their get-togethers in a self-formed 'Calcutta Club' where they still chat in Hindi to each other. Hindustani jute workers manual, courtesy of Dundee University.

It's a first-person narration by a wistful Brian Cox, whose mother was a jute spinner and father a sacker and sorter. He is appalled by the conditions and refers to the 'jute barons' who, "to ease their consciouses', built their public buildings in Dundee and in Kolkata still standing today. He notes that Kolkata of course has the world's longest-running democratically elected Communist government, about 32 years I think.

The programme can be seen on BBC's iplayer for another two days or so, or download it now to watch it later.

Tuesday 24 November 2009 shorthand for the ills of modern society?

A south-east London town is the setting for a new E4 drama series, 'Misfits', which started on 12 November (Thursdays at 10pm).

Thamesmead has again been chosen, it would seem, to lend its "concrete brutalism" to provide the backdrop for this drama about a group of young people on community service who develop superpowers (sounds intruiging...).  The Independent sympathises with weary Thamesmead residents who "could be forgiven for emitting a low groan at seeing their neighbourhood once again used as shorthand for the ills of modern society".

My own associations with Thamesmead are rather different and twofold - pain and happy shrieks. For we only ever trek out to that land of endless roundabouts and dual carriageways to visit the huge dental practice for...ahem..more challenging dental work, or to Tiger Cubs, the kids play place for birthday parties, set in one of those huge shopping estates which surround a car park.

But I digress. Thamesmead is not alone, of course, as a south-east London film location - Greenwich, Bermondsey, Elephant and Castle etc. have all been much used. Thamesmead itself was the setting for Stanley Kubrick's 1971 movie 'A Clockwork Orange '. The famous orange boilersuits of Clockwork appear in Misfits too in a seeming homage. Some other south London locations used in filming are discussed at Transpontine - amongst them, I really like this one: did you know that Reese Witherspoon’s ‘Harvard’ speech in Legally Blonde was actually filmed in the Great Hall of Dulwich College!

Monday 23 November 2009

Shilpa Shetty's happy ending

I don't generally go in for commenting on 'Bollywood' celebrity news. But I have to admit to being curious about the news that Shilpa Shetty got married yesterday. 

Most UK readers will know Shilpa as being a Celebrity Big Brother 'housemate' in the controversial 2007 TV series which resulted in the bullying episodes with the late Jade Goody

In a lavish Hindu ceremony in Khandala, a hill resort near Mumbai, Shilpa married Raj Kundra, a London-based businessman.

You can find all the salacious details about the wedding all over the web. But I was struck by this photograph - they've gone for full traditional gear and look just like an archetypal Indian bride and groom (he even arrived in a carriage drawn by white horses!).  She looks pretty happy and you've got to wish them luck (though whether his ex-wife will be doing the same, is another matter...).

Sunday 22 November 2009

Eltham Lights Up

It's not everyday that you see such a sight in a south-east London suburban high street - a giant lit-up ghostly figure processing down the middle of the road.

The occasion was the switching on of the Christmas lights in and around Eltham High Street (SE9, London). The 10th annual Eltham Lights Up ceremony on Thursday 19 November featured a lantern parade and performances by local primary schools, aswell as the cast of the Bob Hope Theatre’s Wizard of Oz pantomime.

So far, so very local, so what? Well, it was a marvellous example of an event which involved many sections of the community and which loads of people turned out to join in and to watch. (It's also a gratuitous opportunity to show off the photos I took...). The children were beside themselves waving their glowsticks around and jigging to various musical floats.

After the energetic parade there was an impressive fireworks display off the roof of the Marks & Spencer building - everyone oohed and aahed in all the right places.

Even the local MP, Clive Efford (photo below right), turned up and said a few words on the stage erected next to the St Marys Community Centre - a stage which had been earlier populated with glittery jazz-playing santas (I didn't say it was tasteful, it was fun...) - actually they were really quite good.  So well done Eltham.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Getting arty in Southall, West London

Louise Ashcroft has left this interesting invitation on an earlier Southall-related post, to which you might want to respond:
" Hi,
I am an artist making a project about Southall which will be exhibited in a major warehouse exhibition organised by London's Departure Gallery on 10th-13th Dec 2009. I am inviting people to email me info/opinions/images/media inspired by the location of my project, which is in a warehouse on an industrial estate in Southall, west London. I would really like you to email me something to include in the project.

Everything I receive will be exhibited together in a sculptural way and will be labelled with the sender's name. Everyone involved will be credited in the exhibition catalogue. Please respond asap (by 1st December).

This is a great opportunity to showcase your ideas about the local area and to get involved in an interesting project. It need not take much time.

Many thanks.

Louise Ashcroft "

Tuesday 17 November 2009

The Truth About Hardeep Singh Kohli

Yes, it's him again:

Saturday 5 Dec 2009, 8pm

The Truth About Hardeep Singh Kohli


"Hardeep Singh Kohli stands up. Actually, he might just do the hour sat down. He’ll chat, he’ll try and be witty and maybe even accidentally make you laugh. This is his first London gig after his debut Edinburgh show "The Really Naked Chef". (He won’t be naked or cooking though.) AGES 16+ Presented by Capel & Land Ltd."

£16.00. Concessions: £14.00

Arts Depot, 5 Nether Street, Tally Ho Corner, North Finchley, London.

Monday 16 November 2009

Truss selection to force by-election in Greenwich's Eltham South ward?

A meeting tonight in Norfolk could decide whether we are in for a by-election in the Eltham South ward in Greenwich Council (*see below).

At that meeting Elizabeth Truss, the newly-selected Tory parliamentary candidate for South West Norfolk is attempting to avoid de-selection tonight, after the row erupted about the Norfolk party members not having known about Truss' 18-month affair in the past with an MP (all has long since been been forgiven and forgotten by her husband). Now that has come to light, they are meeting to decide how relevant it is that their candidate had an affair and also that she apparently did not flag this up to them. Many feel, though, that this row is more about the way in which the central party has imposed its candidate on a local constituency. There's been a 'blogging blizzard' with much talk about 'Cameron cuties', the 'Turnip Taliban' and, no less, 'a fight for the very soul of the Tory Party'.

Ms Truss is at present one of the three Conservative Councillors for Eltham South. This is how she won in 2006:

Eltham South Ward (turnout 40%):

Eileen GloverConservative1668
Peter John Henry KingConservative1611
Michael John LewisLiberal Democrats1284
John Colin LittlefieldLabour720
Terence Arthur MaloneLabour693
Mark Simon PattendenLiberal Democrats1386
Lester Elliot Shubert (commonly known as Elliot)Liberal Democrats1168
Elizabeth Mary TrussConservative1443
John TwidaleLabour667

Elizabeth Truss's local and activist record has been much defended by local Tory councillors (well, they would wouldn't they?). The meeting begins at 7pm tonight. It will be interesting to see what happens. My guess? Under pressure from the Tory machine bent on national election success, I think she'll stay selected in Norfolk.
[Update 22.30hrs: About 200 members of the South West Norfolk Conservative group voted 132 to 37 to back Elizabeth Truss as their candidate at the next General Election.]

*well, possibly, depending on when the general election is called for ...

Saturday 14 November 2009

When Boris met Dave, Kash was picking peaches: first Punjabi-American mayor in California

A quick post about a wonderful rags-to-riches (or rags-to-power) story last week:
"Kash Gill, who grew up as a farm worker, will be sworn in today [10 November] as Yuba City’s first Punjabi-American mayor.  As many of you know, Yuba City (often referred to as the pindh of California), has a large Punjabi Sikh population....It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that finally a Punjabi-American will be taking the seat of mayor. The event does, however,  signify a signficiant step for a community that makes up about 12 percent of the population in Yuba City.  The story also embodies the dream, which many immigrant communities carry with them – that by working hard and perservering, anything is possible". [credit: Langar Hall]
It is another Amercian Dream story, perhaps just like Obama's.You have to acknowledge though, that although Kash Gill, now aged 47, grew up helping on the family farm, he is a college graduate and then went on to be a banker - so he didn't quite down his farming tools and was then carried aloft into onto the hustings. Still, he had humble beginnings and it made me wonder whether that could happen in the UK. This was especially so as I watched "When Boris met Dave" on TV earlier tonight. The programme is a 'docu-drama' portraying the shared priviledged past at elite Eton and Oxford of the two most powerful Conservative politicians in Britain: London Mayor Boris Johnson and party leader David Cameron (Cameron is top, second from left; Boris, bottom, first right). Admittedly, there's a bit of a difference between the mayor of a small USA town and a UK prime minister-to-be. Still it made think. I think that from the trade union shop floor is probably as humble a beginning as we get in UK politics. At the risk of sounding like that Monty Python (?) sketch (where they compete over who had the poorest upbringing) - do you have any 'better' UK examples?

Multicultural…ism, schism and Racism

This should be a lively event for those near Birmingham on 26 November, though alas I won't be able to get there.

The Drum in partnership with South Asian Alliance presents a debate, Multicultural…ism, schism and Racism.

"Is multiculturalism a good thing or a bad thing? Immigration has transformed Britain, making it a more vibrant, cosmopolitan nation. But have multicultural policies also left it more divided? How should we deal with questions of free speech and religious freedom in a multiculturalism society? And has multiculturalism helped or hindered the struggle for equality? Writer, lecturer and broadcaster Kenan Malik and author of The End of Tolerance, Arun Kundnani debate the vexed question of multiculturalism, racism and equality." 

Malik is often billed as one of the early 'left-wing' critics of multiculturalism whilst expect Kundnani to defend multiculturalism and talk about the 'new racism' especially since the 9/11 terror attacks in USA. I think much depends on what exactly we mean by multiculturalism but broadly I think it is a good way to organise modern society where people of different backgrounds find themselves living together - I've yet to hear about more attractive alternatives. The debate starts at 7pm at The Drum, 144 Potters Lane, Aston, Birmingham. If you make it I'd like to hear about how it went?

Thursday 12 November 2009

Svapnagata: British Asian Music and Dance Festival

For fans of Indian and British Asian music, dance and choreography there's a great festival coming up. Svapnagata at Sadler's Wells (in Islington, London) will be featuring over 60 such artists in a festival from 16 to 28 November 2009. 
Svapnagata, which means 'dreaming' in Sanskrit, is curated by multi-award winning composer Nitin Sawhney and dancer/choreographer Akram Khan. The festival will include a whole range of Indian musical experience from classical dance to British-Asian hip hop. Other notable names include Anoushka Shankar, Trilok Gurtu and Jan Gabarek. See the Sadler's site for the programme.

I've seen both Akram Khan and Nitin Sawhney performing on different occassions (and, in an earlier life, have interviewed Sawhney). They are two very focussed and grounded individuals who are hugely talented. They not only reflect their respective disciplines of dance and music but they subvert, mix and fuse their art coming up with unique material which stretches boundaries - to carry on the cliches, they are cutting-edge (click on the pic, below, to hear them talking about the Festival - or see this interview with the BBC).

I saw Akram Khan perform last year in Sacred Monsters also at Sadler's, with Sylvie Guillem, and it was spellbinding - the closest it's possible to come to tears by watching dance.

So you might want to check this out. And for 'south-east London' readers, you might be interested to know that Khan and Sawhney are both South London boys...

Wednesday 4 November 2009

'What Fatima Did' at the Hampstead Theatre

Hampstead Theatre World Premiere
A Hampstead Theatre Production

What Fatima Did…

by Atiha Sen Gupta  
22 October - 7 November 2009

 This sounds a fascinating play which presses many topical buttons at the moment:
"Fatima Merchant is feisty and strong-willed.

At 17, she drinks, smokes and parties. On the eve of her 18th birthday, without word or warning or explanation, she adopts the hijab.

Suddenly, to her friends and family she is no longer the Fatima they thought they knew.

What Fatima Did... is a funny and provocative exploration of attitudes to identity, freedom and multiculturalism in contemporary London.

Hampstead Theatre has championed the work of Atiha Sen Gupta since she joined the theatre’s young company, Heat&Light, in 2003. She has written with Roy Williams and Tanika Gupta for Hampstead’s new writing festivals – Daring Parings 1 and 2. Now, her first solo full length play, commissioned when Atiha was 17, forms the centrepiece of Daring Pairings 3."

 The author herself hails from an interesting background - in an interview with the London Evening Standard we're told:

"As it turns out, she isn't Muslim and her parents are not religious. Her accountant father is half-Sri Lankan, half-white. Her Indian-born mother, Rahila Gupta, is a political journalist and activist for Southall Black Sisters (her co-authored book Circle of Light, about a real-life case of domestic violence, was made into the film Provoked, starring Aishwarya Rai)."

It's has some sizzling reviews - I wish I had heard about this earlier, still we have until Saturday...

Tuesday 3 November 2009

The strange case of the 'Schotten Preise'

I heard about this extraordinary story - the Germans have for centuries been using a racial stereotype about the Scottish to refer to something that's cheap in price. This has persisted so deep that German outlets even have a stock phrase 'Schotten preise' ('Scottish price') which is routinely used to refer to products going cheap.

The price comparison site Geizkragen, for example, uses this 'happy cartoon Jock' complete with tartan hat and kilt combo advising Germans how to save money.  The Telegraph reports that:

"The Scottish National Party is to lodge an official complaint with Germany’s advertising association, arguing the long-established marketing technique is offensive.

Angus Robertson MP, the party’s Westminster leader, said the phrase promotes an unfair racial stereotype that Scots are mean and advertisers would not dare make the same association with orthodox Jews.
Mr Robertson, the son of a German, said it was unacceptable to portray Scots in such a pejorative way. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” he argued.

“You wouldn’t do it with orthodox Jews, so why do it with Scots? The constant association of our country and people with meanness and cheapness is beginning to hit at the borders of defamation and insult.”

Why have the Germans picked on the Scots particularly?  We're told that "“Schotten Preise” may derive from the 15th century when many Scots lived in German-populated areas of the Baltic and are believed to have offered goods at competitive prices." So ingrained is this phrase that a friend of mine (English) studying German even found it listed at the back of her German dictionary as one of the 'common phrases' to learn!

 However, right on cue, it is not long before those objecting to racial stereotypes are accused of being 'politically correct'. "Alex Johnstone, a Conservative MSP, accused Mr Robertson of indulging in “a kind of political correctness we could well do without”, saying he should act “in a more light-hearted and engaged way".  Yes, everyone should be happy to be called a p*** or else you're just being, well, miserable. I'm sure there's a place for jokey banter (ask any Asian who has to smile at curry jokes) but such stereotypes should not be used in public material, however much it persists in folklore.

I hope the SNP gets somewhere with its complaint. Still, I have to admit that it's a relief to be a bystander for a change in the more usual 'racial slur' rows.

Sunday 1 November 2009

The Grewals: Channel 4 documentary on Sikh family

This TV series is going to be a 'must-see' for every Asian household in the country.
"Following the success of the Bafta nominated The Family in 2008, the Grewal family from Windsor will be the subject of this major observational documentary series for Channel 4. This year there are nine family members - one of whom is born during the series - and three generations all living under one roof."

It starts on 4 November at 9pm on Channel 4 and, if the previews are anything to go by, it's going to be hilarious. It's got the full stock of characters that any British-Asian will recognise. But more than that, and most poignantly as a comment on an 'immigrant family', it has characters that ANY community would recognise - guess what, underneath the different style of clothes, food and language, famillies are pretty much the same.

I'm curious about the editing and the narrative which the editors will choose to pursue - the preview seems to be playing it for laughs but I'm guessing they'll be some bitter-sweet moments too in the mix.

I'm very curious about the language use which will be portrayed - were the participants advised to use English more than Punjabi? Did the editors favour cutting in the English bits more than Punjabi? How much Punjabi will there be and will it be subtitled? As someone who's primary research interest is 'code-switching' (or a more academic reference), I'm also looking forward to seeing some good examples of the languages being mixed together in the conversations of speakers (what great linguistic data, verbal and visual, the whole unedited footage would be - that's the stuff of fantasy, well, mine anyway....)

Anyways, here's the preview clip:

The doc has been picked up all over the media - even The Sun seems chuffed about it.

And finally, prompted presumably by this series, there is to be a related event at the Royal Society of Art (RSA) in London:
RSA Screens with Channel 4 - The Family: How has the portrayal of South Asians in the media changed in recent years?
17th Nov 2009; 18:30

The BAFTA nominated series ‘The Family’ returns this year with the Grewal family from Windsor. Filmed over a period of 8 weeks, with 28 cameras following them round the clock, this unique observational series documents the universal themes of family life.

Join us for a special preview screening of an episode of ‘The Family’ and the chance to see shorts by Asian filmmakers.

A Q&A will follow, discussing the representation of British South Asians in the media, chaired by Channel 4 Head of Diversity, Oona King, commissioning editor, Aysha Rafaele and filmmakers Sadia & Shazia Ur-Rehma. In association with Channel 4 and Bombay Mix.

Friday 30 October 2009

October half-term week: Hamphire to Greenwich

I feel all BNP-ed out after last week and have had to turn attentions to half-term week with the children. It's a shame the current lovely warm weather could not have been predicted - we had a lovely October half-term week in Hampshire a couple of years ago. Having set off on a Friday evening, we stayed a couple of days at the Shorefield Country Park, just ten minutes walk from the Christchurch south coast with its pebbly beach with its colourful rows of beach huts (our photo above). We had lovely woodland and beach walks, swimming, eating and relaxing. Then the car was packed up again and we moved camp, driving through the New Forest a few miles inland just outside Winchester, and stayed at the slightly quirky Marwell Hotel - you're supposed to feel like you're on safari and in an animal-infested jungle - to convince you it comes complete with piped animal noises in the corridors! And, you know, it kinda worked, the children loved it. From there you can, of course, cross the grounds on foot and visit the vast Marwell Zoological Park, the raison d'etre of the hotel (though all mention of the word 'zoo' seems to have been purged from their website) - don't forget to get your discounted zoo tickets from the hotel reception. The next day on the way back home we had a sunny but cold day at Paulton's Park. It took a lot to amuse our then-3 and 5 years olds! I'm not sure why I went into this old story - just feeling nostalgic about this week I guess, and the places we've been with the children who are growing up fast.

[Warning: possible spoiler alert coming UP - thanks to Plummy Mummy for pointing that out]
This week has been more local. I took the children to the Greenwich Odeon to see Disney Pixar's Up today. A strange but intruiging film - "by tying thousands of balloon to his home, 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America. Right after lifting off, however, he learns he isn't alone on his journey, since Russell, a wilderness explorer 70 years his junior, has inadvertently become a stowaway on the trip." It was the usual animation triumph for Pixar though quite dark in places - the death and miscarriage in the first 15 minutes had my eyes stinging, I have to say. However there's enough else to amuse the kids and they seemed to enjoy it. We braved the tiny Nando's afterwards which was busy busy, busy. There were tears there from my little boy though who, having piled up his bowl, couldn't then (in a 'heaven turned to hell' moment) get the frozen yoghurt dispensing machine to stop! All was well in the end.

Anyways, back to the old school and work routine next week, though before then we have the Halloween circus to brave...

Thursday 29 October 2009

Pimped my blog

It's still me here! Well, I finally got round to updating my blog - not perfect by a long way but at least Though I have to admit to a sentimental fondness for template '565' which served me well for quite a while. Would be interested to know what you think?

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Anita Desai and Kiran Desai in conversation

If you're interested in 'post-colonial' literature from the Indian diaspora, here's an event which might interest you:

Saturday 31 October 2009

Anita Desai and Kiran Desai in conversation 

"A rare opportunity to listen to the formidable family duo Anita and Kiran Desai, who discuss the different cultural, historical and literary forces that formed their writing lives and which have made them the internationally renowned authors they are today. What were their main influences and how did they start out? Have global publishing contexts changed? How does it feel to share a similar craft? This intriguing conversation between mother and daughter includes short readings from both writers."
At Purcell Room, South Bank Centre, Belvedere Road, London.   Click here for more details

Friday 23 October 2009

Legitimisation of fascism: 'The genie is out of the bottle'*

Well, it's over. I think many will breathe a sigh of relief over the relative pummelling that Nick Griffin got on the BBC tonight. He showed himself up with his cod 'ice-age' history and frankly offensive claims that America's infamous KKK was a non-violent organisation! The panelists did well, with some of them very well-prepared. However, on balance I have to agree that the BBC did not have to have NG on Question Time itself - it could have discharged it's 'duty of balance' through its news programmes eg. Newsnight, as it has done already. I think having NG on such a 'news entertainment' programme does add legitimacy to the BNP. Yes, I know close to a million people may have voted for them, but then again, Hitler was elected once too and look where that ended. The BNP are a party which a sizable percentage of British people cannot join because of the colour of their skin (its proposed constitutional change to allow non-white people to join has yet to be agreed and enacted) and which, if elected, would constrain the rights of people (to jobs, to housing, etc.) on racial grounds. It wasn't a good move to have him sitting up there with the big boys and girls. I think the BBC can only have been playing for ratings.

Finally, for more detail, a couple of links to some live blogging and comments on the programme: the New Statesman and BobfromBrockley (*title quote here from the Statesman blog by And here's the iplayer link to watch the programme.

[Morning update: depending on what you read or watch, it was either a triumph showing up fascism or it was a lynching and has created sympathy for the underdog. But, hey, sometimes you are the underdog for all the right reasons and deserve not to win.]

Thursday 22 October 2009

Questions of our time: freedom of speech, tolerance and the new media

Whilst following much of it, I’ve been pretty silent here on the hot blogsphere topics of the ‘left’ during the last week or two. We’ve had:

- ‘freedom of speech’ issues (the Jan Moir piece on Stephen Gately , Geert Wilders’ visit and the BNP on Question Time) and

- the traditional media vs new media (the 2.0 web success resulting in the records complaints to the PCC about the Moir piece)

Other bloggers have been saying it so much better (and quicker!), as linked above.

It will be interesting to see how the BNP plays out on Question Time tonight (BBC1, 10.30pm ). Will Nick Griffin expose himself? Will he come across as a credible politician with views on a range of (non-race related) topics? Which of the other panel members will be most effective/useless against NG? Will Bonnie Greer prove to have been a good choice? And perhaps most importantly, following the programme, will there be a rise in support for the BNP?

Wednesday 21 October 2009

British Pathe releases historical news clips

For anyone interested in history and news media, I've come across an incredible site which is sure to provide hours of distraction (as if we needed anymore internet distractions...). It's the British Pathe website which has "3,500 hours of video, 12 million stills" over "75 years". Usefully, it has a search facility - a search on 'India', for example, gives 1,043 results. Many of these clips include early footage of the Nehrus, of Gandhi, of various British encounters with and visitors to India as well as more anonymised clips of festivals and villages.

Amongst the earliest clips with sound, is one of the "Maharaja of Patiala" from 1921, as he "dedicates beautiful Gateway in memory of India's heroic dead in great war. Brighton, Sussex." I wonder if the plaque is still there?

The possibilities are endless. Other south London bloggers (eg. 853, Transpontine) have already usefully catalogued their searches on south-east London which include gems such as the following and many more:

1914: Artillery sports at Woolwich.
1914: A Victoria Cross winner gets a hero’s reception at Deptford.
1916: Lewisham’s pride – footage of soldiers from World War I.
1941: An RAF parade at Kidbrooke.
1942: Mr Woolley of Eltham shows off his model of the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship.
1946: A school for barmaids at the Dover Castle, Deptford.
1947: Their proudest moment – Charlton win the FA Cup.
1947: Bexley’s teenage mayoress.
1948: Cooks on parade for Christmas at Woolwich Barracks.
1948: Making propellers at Stone’s foundry in Charlton.
1948: A mobile fish and chip shop is a big hit in Sidcup.
1948: A “silent butler” to help busy housewives is unveiled in Hither Green.
1949: “Daredevil cockney kids” use a New Cross bomb site as a speedway track.
1949:Plumstead Plumber” Bill Painter climbs Eros in a trilby.
1967: The aftermath of the Hither Green train disaster.
1967: The second Blackwall Tunnel opens – and work starts on the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach.
1968: The Gipsy Moth arrives at Greenwich – by road from Woolwich

So enjoy yourselves and let me know about your favourites.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Happy Diwali

I kinda liked this photo which came across my radar - it's the big smile on the face of President Barack Obama, last Wednesday, lighting "the official White House "diya" to mark the celebration of Diwali, a Hindu festival that will be celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs around the world this weekend. A local Hindu priest from Maryland recited the mantra as Obama lighted the lamp." [credit: SAJAForum]

Anyways, we're West London bound to my mother's for the Diwali weekend. Not that I am of the religious variety, but the children enjoy it, just like Christmas, and I appreciate the beauty and history of it all. Hubby gets to eat lots of Indian sweets and gets fussed over. The kids, hubby and me get to light a candle at the local gurdhwara (sikh temple) and I might get to find out the answer to that eternal question that's always puzzled me - what's the explanation for the amazing co-incidence of Hindus and Sikhs celebrating Diwali on exactly the same day but for totally different reasons? Can anyone enlighten me? (I can't ask my mum because I don't know how to say 'co-incidence' in Punjabi...)

Friday 16 October 2009

Cinema event comes to Hither Green, SE13

Come and support the need for an arts and community space in Hither Green, South-East London. The Hither Green Hall tells us that "the most exciting Cinema event in Hither Green since 1957!" is taking place on Sunday 18 October. "Built in 1913 it is one of the oldest surviving cinema buildings left in London, this will be the first cinema event held in this area since it’s closure."
Time: 14:00 – 22:00
Location: Firemasters Warehouse 174-176 Hither Green Lane,entrance on Lanier Rd

Located in the warehouse at the back of the Firemasters building on Hither Green Lane, doors will open at 2.00pm and the day begins with a screening of that classic musical My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.

The film also stars Gladys Cooper as Professor Higgin’s mother, she was born in Hither Green and we are thrilled that her daughter Sally Hardy will be attending the event.

Tea and cakes will be provided by The Golden Afternoon Tea Company, a perfect Sunday afternoon!

3pm My Fair Lady

6pm- The Balloonatic. A Buster Keaton favourite with live piano accompaniment from Costas Fotopoulos.

7pm- Pool of London
A lesser known film from the famous Ealing Studios depicting fascinating scenes of a post war London. A gripping and intriguing film capturing a time of change.

‘Basil Dearden’s paean to London docklands in the 1950s is as enchanting and as murky as the river: a noir-ish heist tale, liberally suffused with a fable of forbidden love and unrestrained passion. The heist element of Pool of London (1951) is well crafted and suspenseful, but the most striking aspect is Dearden’s tentative venture into racial politics, with the first interracial relationship in a British film’ Carl Daniels (

A bar and refreshments will be available.

Tickets cost £5 at whatever time you arrive. The earlier you come the more films you see!
Available on the door or reserve tickets by calling 07956 614007.

This event has been organised to help save the local cinema in Hither Green lane and to promote the need for a cinema and arts centre in the area....All money raised will go back into funding our campaign, we desperately need your support!

The Londonist has also picked up this news and gives this account of the campaign. It also tells us that "in the morning. Crave Arts Academy are running free drama workshops for children, so limber up and get down there for 10am if your young 'uns are between 3 and 6 years old, or 11am if they're 7-13.)"

This venue and its cultural events would be very welcome in the cultural desert around the area, so you may want to go along (I shall be elsewhere, as you might learn in the next post...)

[UPDATE: "Spectacular success for Hither Green cinema day" read more here]

Thursday 15 October 2009

Chislehurst in Bromley rules the UK for car crime

This alarming news for South Londoners from The Londonist:
London Postcodes Top UK Car Crime List

Chislehurst in Bromley is famous for its man-made cave system, but now has other connections to the underworld. According to new 'research', the town rules the UK for car crime. 3.8% of local motorists made insurance claims for break-ins or theft over the past year (the national average is 1.17%). Meanwhile, Ilford and Romford postcodes fill six of the top twenty spots. We're always a little suspicious of reports conducted by companies with an interest in the results (in this case a price comparison website whose aim is to sell as much car insurance as possible). However, we can't fault the data, drawn from 3.8 million claims and quoted as percentage rather than absolute number.

Crikey. Mystifying though it is (why on earth Chislehirst?), regular readers will know I've had my own car-related misfortune recently, not far from there...

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Sikh schoolboy in row over 'kirpan'

This is the big 'identity politics' story in London at the moment, being picked up everywhere:
"A Sikh boy has been withdrawn from a north London school after he said he wanted to wear his traditional dagger.The boy, 14, was told not to carry the 5in (12.7cm) kirpan at the Compton School in Barnet after governors ruled it was a health and safety risk. Under Sikhism the sheathed scimitar is one of five "articles of faith" that must be carried at all times."

It's being debated all over the media (esp.the LBC Radio station right now). In haste now, might write more can carrying a knife in school be justified?

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Blair Peach and Southall on Newsight now...

I shall post a 'listen again' link when it's available [now here at 15.39 mins in]. This is what my email said from Newsnight earlier this evening:
" is ...a question that is still unanswered 30 years after the death of a teacher in another London demonstration.

His name was Blair Peach and the Metropolitan police commissioner has finally promised to release the findings of their investigation into his death after keeping them secret since 1979.

It was widely reported at the time that the inquiry recommended charges be brought against individual police officers. Tonight, for the first time, the inspector said to have been a prime suspect speaks about his role in an exclusive report from Peter Marshall."
Marshall has just asked the inspector "did you kill Blair Peach?" "No, no way, I didn't" he said. He's now Dr Alan Murray, an academic, sounding quite sincere and plausible. On the other hand, surely the death of an innocent, peaceful person on a march needs to be accounted for?

The findings of the Met Police investigation will be made public "by the end of the year".

My previous post on Southall and the death of Blair Peach here and the BBC summary, including a clip from the programme here

British Asian men opting for 'home grown' marriages

Details of an interesting radio programme broadcast tomorrow (or 'listen again' within 7 days):

Home Grown

Wednesday 14 October
11.00-11.30am BBC RADIO 4

Yasmeen Khan investigates the growing trend among British Asian men to marry women from their native countries. Forget arranged or forced marriages, this is something completely different.

Despite being raised in the UK, many second-generation British Asian men are choosing to marry women from "back home" – from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. These are young professionals, working alongside British Asian women in places such as investment banks, law companies and accounting practices.

This cultural phenomenon is unique to the second generation of British Asians. While it could be expected that those born in Britain would seek partners from a similar background or even marry out of the culture to a white partner, few would have predicted that a generation would end up struggling with a culture and identity that left them choosing a partner from their parents' country of origin.

Yasmeen, who has written on Asian dating from both a personal and a journalistic perspective, uncovers why many young British Asians want a "home-grown" girl, many of whom are just as educated and professional as their British Asian peers. She travels around the UK and asks young British Asian men and women what their expectations of a partner are, whether they find it hard to juggle their own desires with that of their parents and community, and – talking to the men who have brought a wife over from "back home" – whether the match has lived up to their expectations.

I hope she'll look at why it's more prevalent amongst men rather than British Asian women. I once knew a top city British Asian accountant who opted to marry a woman from India - she turned out to be less than docile and obedient, much to the chagrin of his family. So I offered her a job!