Wednesday 29 September 2010

Sikh-Brit Archie Panjabi wins US TV award

For a while I've had this news saved up...

Last month the London-born actress of Sikh background, Archana Kaur - better known as Archie Panjabi, won the best supporting actress for her role in the The Good Wife, a US series which seems also to have been shown on Channel 4 recently.

I've always enjoyed watching her performances and she looks absolutely stunning at the awards ceremony (but let's not forget, she also has a management degree).

The Telegraph had this to say:
"On an otherwise disappointing night for British talent, Archie Panjabi won the best supporting actress award for her role as the straight-talking private detective Kalinda Sharma in the US drama The Good Wife.

The 38-year-old, who made her name in the British hit films East is East and Bend it Like Beckham, appeared elated as she accepted the prestigious US television award.

She said: "When I started in the business in England, just getting a job was a dream. And to receive an Emmy now is just beyond my wildest dreams.”

Panjabi, whose family emigrated to London from India before she was born, is among only a handful of Sikh performers ever to have won an Emmy.

But she has told how her strict family were less than supportive when she announced her aspiration to become an actress because the profession is considered “lowly” by many traditional Indian communities.“We did have a few arguments because I wanted to go to drama school,” she said previously. “When I was younger a friend of mine’s mother said that this business was only for prostitutes. I thought, Oh my God, do I label myself as that?” But she added that her parents had ultimately agreed to support her ambition on the condition that she went to university first.

Her 2:1 in management studies from Brunel may not have contributed much to her meteoritic success as an actress, but her parents’ scepticism about showbusiness appears to have helped keep her feet on the ground.

Panjabi, who is now married to the businessman Raj Nihalani, said in a recent interview that her favourite pastime is “simply relaxing with a candle and a book,” adding: “simple things are so important because I think in this industry…it’s like being part of a bubble......"

What a familiar scenario - British-Asian girl/boy wants to go into the arts/culture - parents aghast that they'll become a slut/gay/a wastrel and force them to do business/accountancy - kids sticks it out, get the degree then do their own thing anyway (and became Sanjay Baskar or Nitin Sawhney) or else, alternatively disappear into obscurity....weeps gently.

Watch Archie Panjabi's Emmy speech here.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Following in Gandhi's London footsteps

Ever wondered where, and how, Gandhi (the Mahatma, 1869 - 1948) lived in London each of the times he visited between 1888 to 1906? Go on, I'm sure you must have.

Well, now you can go on a two-hour walk which retraces the steps of Gandhi, who became a dominant figure in Indian Independence politics, since the first time he came to London in 1888 to study law, aged 18 years old.. A website, Gandhi's London, is devoted to retracing Gandhi's time in London and is well worth a look. The site tells us that:
"Gandhi’s London tour was conceived by Ajay Goyal. In 2005 Ajay Goyal started exploring London while reading about Mahatma Gandhi’s early life and experiences. Over two years Goyal visited dozens of locations in London using many of Mahatma’s own articles but especially a book written by American historian James Hunt as a guide book. He discovered that soon after arriving here first in 1889 Gandhi had become a true Londoner – the one who discovers the many diversities of the world through this beautiful, vibrant and friendly city — and built himself a large circle of friends and soul-mates here.  In the two years he spent in London studying he walked miles each day and lived at a number of locations. He attended many lectures and meetings and his search for vegetarian food took him to vegetarian society meetings and small niche restaurants."
Explore the links - the website really is a detailed labour of love - and find out about when the walks take place.

Co-incidentally, and in a bizarre connection between south-east London and Indian Independence, I had spotted a lecture organised last week by the Lewisham Local History Society but one which we've now missed (you never know, it might come round again):
Friday 24th September 2010
Lal Mohun Ghose and Indian Nationalism in Deptford
Speaker: Ray Thatcher
Lal Mohun was an Indian nationalist who for a few years lived in Deptford and in 1885 stood for Parliament as a Liberal.
It sounds fascinating - I wonder if Lal Mohun and Gandhi ever met up in London?

I was about to leave it there when I have stumbled across yet something else which I had to mention, and which is definitely going to be the last word...a performance on 2 October:
TARA evokes Gandhi’s life in London in the spectacular rotunda of the Temple Church with a company of actors, musicians and dancers. The performance on 2 October, Gandhi’s Birthday, marks the launch of the Gandhi Inner Temple Association.
TARA produces global theatre for local audiences. Positioned between East and West, TARA has pioneered cross-cultural theatre for over three decades. In 2009 the company co-produced Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album with the National Theatre.

Performances of Gandhi in London:

2 Oct 6:15pm (Gandhi’s birthday)
5 Oct 6:45pm
Tickets £10
The Temple Church
London, EC4Y 7HL
Book tickets:
020 8333 4457 /
Update: There seems to be a further performance on 12 Oct 2010 at 18:45 - see their website

A case of the wrong address

Someone, a mum, has just turned up at our house  in Eltham cheerily announcing "Hi, I'm Alex's mum" clearly expecting to pick him up. We've never heard of Alex or seen this woman before! Her son had a 'play date' this afternoon and she has clearly got the wrong address to pick him up from, and no idea where he is!

A bit of a distressing situation on the face of it, but I'm sure that through the parent network of mobiles and texts, she will find him, or Alex's play hosts will drop him off.  Just goes to show, always check your kids' contact information.

Monday 27 September 2010

Bromley is UK's 'curry house capital'?

This is bizarre but I thought you should know.

The BBC reported in June (yes, I'm a bit behind) that there is "one curry restaurant for every 853 residents in Bromley, south-east London".

Any theories as to why?

Sunday 26 September 2010

Status Quo in Eltham

Here's a bizarre bit of Eltham history commemorated last week:
The Bexley Times tells us:
"Members of a group which has sold over 118 million records were on hand to help unveil a plaque at the venue of their first ever gig.
Status Quo’s first gig at the former Welcome Inn pub in Well Hall Road, Eltham, was marked with a plaque unveiling on Monday which the band attended
This was part of the scheme set up by the organisation which collects and pays royalties to musicians - the Performing Rights Society for Music. Its heritage award scheme was launched last year to recognise the unusual ‘performance birthplaces’ of famous bands and artists.

Status Quo is the seventh band to be given the honour of receiving the permanent plaque at the site they played their first gig in 1967 when they were known as The Status Quo. The site now forms part of Weston Homes’ The Edens residential development."

Here is the pub in a sorry state after it was closed following a spectacular fire in 2006, which I remember watching late in the evening at the time. I remember having the odd Sunday roast lunch at this place when it had a Harvester in situ. It was a cosy pub and a nice place to have nearby. There's sadly a lack of such places around here now.

The Lost Pubs project would like to here from you if you have any memories about this pub.

On the subject of Eltham gigs, someone recently told me that they once watched The Who play at the old Eltham Baths in the 1960s, the art-deco-ish building now boarded awaiting re-development into flats. How much nicer than today's stadium gigs.

Ed Miliband, new Labour Leader

I've got to quickly mark the news of the announcement of the next Labour leader. Yesterday afternoon the results were announced of the five-month long leadership contest. Ed Miliband could now potentially follow in the footsteps of those other Labour leaders who became PM:  Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, James Callaghan, Harold Wilson, Clement Attlee and James Ramsay MacDonald.

So far, so sound-bitey I think. He seems a good fellow but it is hard to know at this stage what his leadership will mean for the party. The most annoying thing on Day 2 is the way that the media have latched on the 'Red Ed' title, resulting in the statements from Miliband about protecting the 'middle-classes'. We always seem to have to have an adversarial set-up in the media. I shall watch with interest. In the meantime, links to more lucid analysis of this result below:

Meet the New Boss ... Same as the Old Boss?

‘Red Ed’? The younger Miliband will go straight for the middle ground

Why Ed Miliband's core instinct is to battle for the middle ground

Ed Miliband shouldn’t have won—but it might work out anyway

p.s. a number of visitors have landed here asking whether Ed Miliband is Asian. Answer: no, he very much isn't (as far as we know) - he is Prof Ralph Miliband's son, his family background in British-Polish-Jewish. Read more in this nice Guardian piece.

Back from France

Wow, that was quite a break from blogging, but I hope to be back now...

The recent holiday to the South of France was great (though I wasn't thrilled with the country on my return to read about the enforced deportation of Roma people, here and here).

The photograph here is the magnificent view southwards from the garden terrace of our villa - the mountains are, of course, the Alberes region of the Pyrenees which separate the south of France from the north of Spain. I wish our garden could look like this (the pool was just to the right!)

We did manage to visit some of the lovely spots around us, despite the kids badgering us about not wanting to "just walk around again" - at 5 and 8 years old, they just wanted the pool, beach or ice-cream! (next year I'm going to have to do that middle-class thing of developing some 'activity sheets' or something which they can fill in as we visit these places of interest - as if I'm ever gonna find the time for that ...).

We did manage to visit the nearby city of Perpignan, and especially its Palais des Rois de Majorque, originally built in the late 13thC as a residence for Jaume II of Mallorca. Here's how an Independent review of Perpignan put it:

"The strange thing about the Palais des Rois de Majorque (open daily, 10am-6pm, admission €4/£3) is that the high, narrow streets of the old town render it invisible from street level until you reach its vast brick fortifications, which date from the 17th century. Once you're in front of it, though, it's an extraordinary sight - a vast complex, crowned by a brick palace, built for the 13th-century rulers of the kingdom of Mallorca, which then encompassed the Balearic Islands as well as Roussillon. The entrance is on the east side of the complex, and the best views of Perpignan can be found at the top of the walls, from where the Pyrenees are also visible to the south. A drained moat runs round the palace itself, which also contains a Gothic chapel and various stone-walled royal apartments, now home to temporary exhibitions."

We also had a day at the beautiful coastal town of Banyuls-sur-Mer where the east of the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean, with its lovely harbour and aquarium, but a grey-rubbly beach (which looked prettier than when you sat on it and got covered in grey dust!). The town is known for being the home of Maillol (1861 - 1944), a sculptor who specialised in nudes figures, many of which are to found around the town as public art.

And further north up the Côte Vermeille, we had a late dinner one evening in the Catalan fishing village of Collioure. Dinner was one of the many restaurants overlooking the harbour and the 16th century Fort St Elme, beautifully light up at night. A tip for parents is that there is a children's playground right next to this group of restaurants where many toddlers were safely and gleefully playing even at 10pm at night (useful whilst hubby was dispatched to collect the car which we had to park at the top of the hill overlooking this town - the town gets busy for parking in the evenings, be warned).
We visited the ubiquitous Aqua parc of course - there are several 'Aqualand water fun parks' in the Languedoc region. We went to the one at St Cyprien (heading along the coast to Argelès). These theme parks are not identical but the concept is pretty much the same, offering water slides, rapids, wave pools etc. But my, they are expensive about E33 for adults and E18 for kids (about 75 pounds in all?), so people tend to make a full day of it, carting in their huge cool boxes of lunch which you can deposit in the lockers. What can I say - the kids love them, and if you let your English adult guard down, you can too.

Well, that was that, the obligatory holiday post - just a snapshot of what we got up to. We didn't even get to go to the Sigean Nature Reserve, or on The Petit Train Jaune, or to Argeles-sur-Mer, or go walking in the Pyrenees - all nearby activities which we didn't have time for this time. Even more in love this part of France (we much prefer Languedoc to Provence) which we get to know more each year, and where I fleetingly get to practice my inept French. The memories will keep me going until next time. I'd love to hear about your experiences of this part of the world and any recommendations.