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If you’re a home cook who peruses the BBC food site for recipes, it’s time to print copies now before it closes.
On May 17, The Guardian reported that recipes and food articles are already being ‘archived’ and eventually will no longer be visible.
The site has 11,000 recipes, some of which have been available for 16 years. After these food pages are ‘mothballed’, one of the only ways to see them will be via the Wayback Machine using this link, which a Guardian reader helpfully shared:
Of course, you won’t be able to search on it and will have to remember approximately when you saw the recipe first appear.
Recipes from current television programmes will be on the BBC site for 30 days after they are broadcast.
The move comes after George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the BBC was being ‘imperial in its ambitions’ by having so much online content. Articles on travel destinations and local news output are also likely to disappear or be scaled back in the coming months.
Other BBC services, channels and coverage could be consolidated or even ended as the broadcaster attempts to save money.
It is odd, though, that an online recipe collection — and the travel archive — can’t be saved. The pages are static. The British people paid for that via their television licence.
Guardian foodies are dismayed, to say the least. As I write at noontime on Tuesday — 12 hours after the article was published — there are already 1,859 comments!
However, there might be a glimmer of hope: a change.org petition to save the recipe site already has over 41,500 signatures of the 50,000 needed for consideration.
The magazine’s Theo Hobson was bemused by the fact that Kennedy overlooked Christianity as being at the heart of human rights even when one of the interviewees said that religion was paramount in this regard:
but Kennedy failed to pursue this with real curiosity.
No Christian theologian was consulted.
Instead, Mesopotamia and Buddhism were invoked by human rights lawyers and non-Western participants. One imagines they mentioned the Code of Hammurabi, named after the ruler of Babylonia who developed it, in 1754 BC. Babylonia was part of Mesopotamia. Incidentally, the ‘talk‘ page of the Code of Hammurabi has an intense discussion about its relationship to Mosaic Law. Revisionists claim Moses took his codes from the Babylonian.
Kennedy grew up in a devoutly Catholic home, yet did nothing to defend the faith despite the fact that she remains a practising Catholic.
As Theo Hobson points out, it was only the spread of Christianity, greatly aided by the Reformation and the Enlightenment, which saw human rights become what they are today:
It was the Christian West that gradually heaved such aspirations into politics. It was in Protestant lands, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that the crucial right to freedom of conscience took root – modern citizenship flowed from this. And as one of the contributors said, it’s only within nation states that rights are really secure.
It’s a pity Hobson couldn’t have been on instead. But, then, that wouldn’t have fit into the BBC’s agenda. Or Kennedy’s, one suspects.
Today, BBC1 broadcast the Queen’s 90th birthday walkabout from Windsor.
Tens of thousands attended and Her Majesty unveiled a plaque at The Queen’s Walkway, which is 6.3km long and marks 63 significant points of interest in the town.
Although the majority of well-wishers were British, a number of them, especially women, came from Commonwealth countries and the United States. One British-American group of women met in the crowd at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. They have kept in touch ever since and made plans to attend this historic event.
Queen Elizabeth looked resplendent in a ‘spring grass green’ coat and matching hat trimmed with fresh white and yellow flowers. She was all smiles as she accepted cards, flowers and gifts from young and old alike. She deftly handed them to her lady in waiting. Groups of schoolchildren and adults sang Happy Birthday as she walked along the route. Prince Philip kept a discreet distance behind his wife and also talked to the crowds.
As one commentator put it, when it comes to meeting the public, the Royal Family say, ‘We’re in the happiness business’. The BBC interviewed a variety of celebrities and authors who have met the Queen. Everyone said that they were in awe of her but felt at home at the same time. They added that she puts you at the centre, however briefly.
Most people lining Windsor’s streets have never known any other British monarch. Sixty-three years and counting is a very long, intergenerational time — the longest any sovereign has ever ruled over our nation.
During that time, the world has seen rapid change and upheaval. One pundit said that the Queen’s presence gives us a sense of stability and continuity. No matter what happens, she is there with us as our head of state.
The mayor of Windsor and the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire acted as hosts for the walkabout and tea party at the town’s Guildhall. At the Guildhall, the Queen and Prince Philip met several nonagenarians. The Queen then cut her birthday cake, made by last year’s Great British Bake Off winner Nadia. Another Bake Off contestant from the same series, Martha, also baked cakes for the party guests.
After spending time at the Guildhall, the Queen and Prince Philip stepped into a brand new custom Range Rover which has a large open-top roof, allowing both of them to stand and wave to the crowds as they were driven down streets in Windsor town centre. Someone dubbed it the Queenmobile.
This evening, the Queen will celebrate her birthday at Windsor Castle with 60 people, family and friends. Entertainment will be laid on.
A discussion took place as to whether the Queen knew what was being planned. Those in the know said that she probably did. She does not like surprises. She likes an orderly plan for everything.
They also said that while Queen Elizabeth presides as head of state, Prince Philip is the head of the household. He gives the orders for everything, including when to clear plates from the table. Servants watch him for the cue.
Commentators said that Windsor Castle really is the nexus for the Royal Family. Everyone feels comfortable there. They also consider Windsor as their home town. They know a lot of people there and feel an affinity with all the residents.
In closing, RMC (French talk radio) announced the walkabout on their morning news broadcasts. One of the talk show hosts also mentioned the new Royal website. He added that part of the job description for the site’s community manager, who also is in charge of tweets, is to have lunch with the Queen whenever she is in residence. How wonderful!
On Holy Saturday, the last day of Holy Week, Catholics and Protestants look forward to celebrating our Lord’s resurrection and preparing a feast for family and friends.
You might find my past posts about Holy Saturday helpful in understanding its significance:
Last week, I summarised the first part of English food journalist Mary Berry’s look at Easter food traditions in various countries and denominations, encompassing those in England, Jamaica, Russia and Poland.
The second, concluding part of Mary Berry’s Easter Feast on BBC2 aired this week. Berry’s enthusiasm for Easter as both a religious and gastronomic feast matches mine, which is part of what made the programme so enjoyable.
Christians make special breads at this time of year to recall Jesus as the Bread of Life. Lamb is also popular, as He is the Lamb of God, the once perfect sacrifice for our sins. As the Archbishop of York, the Right Revd John Sentamu explained, ‘Easter is the Passover of the Lord’.
Greece – tsoureki
Berry visited St Sophia’s Cathedral in London, a breathtakingly beautiful Greek Orthodox church.
Fr Savas, the priest who gave her a tour of the cathedral, said that 1,000 faithful normally attend Midnight Mass on Holy Saturday. Everyone takes a lit candle home and blesses their home with the light of the Resurrection.
Fr Savas’s cousin Katarina made the traditional Easter bread — tsoureki — for Berry. It is a plaited (braided) bread with a red coloured hard boiled egg at the top. The three plaits symbolise the Holy Trinity. The egg symbolises Jesus Christ, and the red colour represents His blood that He shed for our redemption.
Tsoureki dough is an enriched one, resembling a brioche. It is flavoured with two spices: one, mastiha, which comes from tree resin and the other, mahlepi, from ground cherry stones which gives it an almond flavour.
Before baking, the tsoureki is glazed with egg wash and topped with sesame seeds. My Little Expat Kitchen has a recipe that looks like the one Katarina used.
The Netherlands – Easter Men
With the help of her grandchildren, Berry showed us the Dutch Easter Men recipe that she makes every year.
She saw them many years ago on a trip to Holland around Easter and was intrigued.
Berry likes the simplicity of the one-rise bread dough used to make this charming little bread of a man holding an egg — the risen Christ — in his arms.
Once the dough is risen, Berry portions it out and cuts into each one to shape the head, the arms and the legs. She secures a raw egg in the folded arms and decorates the heads with raisins or blackcurrants for simple facial features. She glazes the men with egg wash and bakes them for 25 minutes. The egg cooks as the bread bakes.
This is a simple, straightforward recipe that children will enjoy. They can help shape the limbs, once cut, and decorate the faces.
The Philippines – lechon
Berry visitied a Catholic Filipina, May, who made her a roast pork dish called lechon, an Easter staple in the Philippines.
May explained that, traditionally, lechon is a whole hog roast. Her father used to roast several hogs at Easter when she was growing up in the Philippines. Friends, neighbours and family would then join in for a massive Easter feast.
For home cooks, May recommends pork belly. She brined one with thyme, crushed lemongrass and bay leaves. After several hours, she removed the pork belly from the brine and patted it completely dry, enabling it to crisp when baking.
May laid it out flat, skin side down, and, in the centre, placed a few stems of crushed lemongrass, several spring onions cut lengthwise in half and added a lot of crushed garlic on top before seasoning well with salt and pepper. She then rolled the pork belly tightly and tied it well with butcher’s string.
Once roasted, the lechon had a glossy, dark outer skin. Inside, the meat was moist and tender. The belly fat had cooked out, with some going into the meat. As this recipe has no crackling — the outer skin is too hard to eat — it might be suitable for cooks who prefer less fatty, yet succulent, pork.
May explained that the Spanish introduced lechon to the Philippines centuries ago.
The dish is also popular in Cuba.
England – roast lamb
Berry went to York to watch the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu — a political prisoner from Idi Amin’s Uganda who moved to England 42 years ago — make her own recipe for roast lamb.
Sentamu and his wife Elizabeth both talked about how important Easter was for their large families in Africa. Sentamu’s mother taught him and his siblings how to cook. His father insisted not only on roast lamb on Easter but also curried goat and curried chicken.
He and Elizabeth have been using Berry’s lamb recipe ever since they saw it on television years ago. Berry confessed that she’d long forgotten about it, but it looks very tasty, especially with the touches the Sentamus have added over the years.
The Archbishop cut the main bone out of the leg of lamb. He took several thin slices of deli ham, spread a herb (predominantly rosemary leaves) and garlic mix over each slice and layered them neatly one on top of the other. He rolled the layered ham neatly and inserted it into the middle of the lamb.
He layered his roasting tray generously with tarragon and placed the lamb on top. Around it he put several onion halves. He took a bottle of white wine and poured it until it just covered the onions.
Once the roast was resting, he strained the juices from the roasting pan and made a sumptuous gravy. My mouth was watering. The Sentamu family must surely look forward to lunch on Easter!
Italy – Easter dove bread
Colomba di Pasqua is a traditional Italian bread made in a dove mould, although it can be made in a round one.
The dove symbolises Christ, the Prince of Peace.
To see it made, Berry visited Maria, who cooks for the priests and visiting clergy at St Peter’s Italian Church in London’s Little Italy.
The dough is enriched, as for a brioche, and contains currants and orange peel. It requires a 12-hour rise.
Maria placed the dough into a dove-shaped mould and topped it with whole almonds and crushed sugar. This recipe, which includes a picture, resembles Maria’s. The sugar bakes into the top of the bread leaving an appetising topping.
I wished I’d been with the two very happy priests when she served it to them. They tucked in with gusto.
Nearly all of the show’s participants and their families gathered at Berry’s parish church in the Home Counties not far from London for a sumptuous Easter feast.
They brought their special dishes and Berry brought hers. If you can see the hour-long episode, you’ll agree with me that it was a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable occasion. I would love to have been there.
Everyone got along famously and tried to learn each other’s language. It was a beautiful sight as many promised to keep in touch with each other.
I hope that everyone’s Easter feast is as special as Mary Berry’s.
As we eat, may we remember the risen Christ and give thanks for His resurrection from the dead and His promise to us of life everlasting.
On Monday, English home cook, author and former food journalist Mary Berry — star of The Great British Bake-Off and her own television shows (BBC) — introduced the British public to the traditions behind Good Friday and Easter foods.
The first of two episodes of Mary Berry’s Easter Feast on BBC2 saw her explore traditions in England, Jamaica, Russia and Poland. I highly recommend it. Below is a synopsis of the first programme with additional information from other sources.
Berry, an Anglican, told us that she is a regular churchgoer. She said she goes to Sunday services because ‘it is important to give thanks’. Easter is her favourite religious feast. (Finally, there’s someone who loves Easter as much as I do.)
Easter is the Church’s greatest feast. It has always been celebrated, from the earliest days after Christ’s death and resurrection. Christmas celebrations did not come about until much later.
Hot cross buns
Berry went to St Albans Cathedral to find out more about hot cross buns.
The cathedral’s historian explained that, in England, the precursor of this bun was the Alban bun. In 1361, Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a monk at St Albans Abbey, made highly spiced buns which the monks gave to the poor who appeared at the refectory door on Good Friday. The historian added that Brother Thomas was likely making peace with the locals who resented the Church. Monasteries at that time held an enormous amount of power.
St Albans Cathedral website tells us that their hot cross buns are still made locally — at Redbournbury Mill, which the abbey once owned. Anyone interested can find them the old fashioned way, by going to the Abbot’s Kitchen. They are available throughout Lent to Easter Monday.
The historian gave an Alban bun to Berry, who said it was much spicier than conventional hot cross buns. There is also no pastry or paste cross on the Alban bun, rather one which is formed with a knife before baking.
Although Berry and the historian did not discuss the significance of the bun’s ingredients, the spices symbolise those used to embalm Jesus after His crucifixion. I cannot find anything about the meaning of the dried fruit in them, but years ago, I read that it represents the gentle character of Jesus. I have also read that the fruit pieces suggest the drops of blood He shed for us.
For centuries, people ate hot cross buns only on Good Friday in contemplation of the Crucifixion. These days, sadly, they are available nearly all year round.
During the Reformation, England’s Protestants — and, later, Puritans — condemned the eating of hot cross buns as Catholic superstition. During Elizabethan times, one could only purchase them in London on Good Friday, Christmas or for burials.
Historians point out that fruit breads with a cross existed in ancient Greece. The cross made it easier to divide the bread into four pieces.
A number of superstitions about hot cross buns abound. As for them not going stale, I can assure you that they must be eaten within 12 to 18 hours. They get hard as a rock after that. And, yes, they also go mouldy.
Mary Berry makes hot cross buns for her family during Lent. The BBC has made her recipe available.
Berry spent time with Bettina, who is originally from Jamaica and belongs to a Baptist church in Nottingham.
Bettina makes Jamaican buns for the ladies at her church during Lent. They are actually large cakes, served in thin slices, often with Jamaican cheese. The buns are also very dark, because they have stout in them. This recipe looks like the one Bettina uses.
Bettina also made a standard Good Friday dish of escoveitch (ceviche) fish for Berry to try. After marinating in a ceviche manner, Bettina pan fried the fish, basting it regularly. It looked delicious.
She served it with peppers, chocho and chilis. This recipe is like Bettina’s.
Bettina explained that marinating fish in vinegar dates back to the Moors, who introduced it to Spain. The Spanish, in turn, took the technique with them to the New World.
Russian devilled eggs and pascha
Berry met with a Russian Orthodox home cook and a priest, who explained how their Church observes Lent.
Father Peter explained that church members continue to follow the centuries-old vegetarian Lent, which starts two weeks earlier than the Catholic and Protestant one. They do not consume any food at all on Good Friday. Lenten fasting does not end until the Easter Vigil service ends, which is sometime between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m. Afterwards, everyone — including children — enjoys a feast.
Holy Thursday, which the Orthodox call ‘Clean Thursday’, is a busy, yet contemplative day, Father Peter said. It is the traditional spring cleaning day and it is also when the Easter cake, pascha, is made. Pascha is the word for Easter.
Pascha is a cheesecake with dried fruit. It is put into a pyramid mould with a Russian Orthodox cross on one side and ‘XB’ (‘Christ is risen’) on the other.
Another Russian Easter favourite is the devilled egg. A home cook made this for Berry. It involves peeled hard boiled eggs which are left to steep in beet juice. The programme did not mention this, but the red juice symbolises Christ’s blood. After several hours, the eggs are cut in half, the yolks devilled and piped back into the egg white centres. Caviar is a favourite topping.
Berry went to meet a Polish family in Cambridgeshire. They explained the importance of getting their Easter food blessed at church on Holy Saturday. I wrote about that in 2010.
In addition to coloured eggs, onto which the children were busy etching designs, olives are also an important Easter food for the Poles, probably because of their egg-like shape. Both symbolise life.
The husband made Berry a babka, the traditional Easter cake, which takes three days to make properly. Most of that time involves the rise of the enriched dough, similar to a brioche. He used a babka mould, similar to a kugelhopf mould, and added a chocolate insert. You could use a bundt cake mould.
Those who do not care for chocolate can add dried fruit instead.
A number of babka recipes exist, however, I have not been able to find the one this man used, which is the traditional one. He used his mother’s and, watching him make it, that’s definitely the original. Beware of ‘quick’ or ‘easy’ babka recipes. If anyone can point to one, please share the recipe or a link by commenting below. Many thanks!
Incidentally, he explained that ‘babka’ is also a complimentary word for a woman and a gracious name for a grandmother.
I’ll watch next week’s show and let you know what else Mary Berry discovers in the world of Easter food traditions.
(Photo credit: BBC)
The series charts the role and work of the baker throughout Queen Victoria’s reign.
The week episode 1 was shown, television critic Alison Graham wrote in the Radio Times:
… come on, it’s bread. Just bread. It pretty much all looks the same, so it’s not televisual. They aren’t making artworks like they do on Bake Off. What emerges from the magnificent bread oven is no-nonsense stuff; fortifying, dull, heavy; a bit like Victorian bakers itself.
“For me this is actually tasting history,” says one of the historical experts.
But it’s not though, is it? Again, it’s just bread, but the participants are encouraged to melodramatise, to over-empathise with their baking ancestors. “It’s like retreading history,” says one. But, yet again, no it isn’t …
After the series ended, Graham wrote an apologetic blurb in her column saying that, actually, the series was rather informative after all.
I enjoy watching bakers make bread. SpouseMouse and I are currently watching the first series of La Meilleure Boulangerie de France (‘The Best Bakery’) on M6 which takes the viewer to 84 family-owned firms to find the very best in the nation. I am applying many of their techniques at home in my own bread and pastry making.
Back now to the UK and the Victorian bakers. The first episode takes us back to 1837. Three modern-day bakers and one cake maker are put in a restored bake house to make dozens of loaves by hand. Two historians tell them they must use a large, deep trough to mix and prove the dough. There is no machinery, so two of the three men try to cope with heavy bags of heritage wheat flour, getting the contents in the trough and, after water and brewer’s yeast are added, getting everything combined to a smooth, even consistency. Not easy. It involves bending down into the trough and a few hours of back-breaking kneading. The third baker was in charge of the oven, stoking it with wood and maintaining it at the right temperature. If I remember rightly, the cake maker was allowed to help shape the loaves before baking. Overall, it was man’s work.
An Independent reader indirectly — politely — stated the men should not have added all the flour at once:
The method for hand mixing dough in a trough is to work a little at time from end to end , I learned that from a bakery tutor in 1982 who had actually done it for a living and delighted in making my class of fellow bakery students perform the exercise. I believe the procedure for checking the oven temperature was to wet your hand and touch the oven sole (oven floor for non bakers). They were fit tough folk in those days too, probably why they didn’t live as long as we do now.
Every loaf had to be consistent and edible because most Britons relied on bread as their main foodstuff — every day. The bakers also had to sell their loaves door-to-door. There was no shop. So, after all the backbreaking work, they had to walk around their village or, if in town, their local district. After that, it was back to the bakery to begin all over again.
The 21st century bakers surmised that the heritage wheat, whilst making a dense loaf, would have been more nutritious than most wheat available today. They pointed out that there were no gluten allergies then, possibly for this reason.
Episode 2 put the bakers in the 1870s during the Industrial Revolution. Although the historians said that bakers’ conditions had improved, the bake house — at the Black Country Museum in Dudley — did not look much different. The huge trough was still there and one of the bakers did what some did in the 19th century: knead the dough with his feet. There was no mechanisation, although there were now coal-fired ovens, which the 21st century bakers said were a huge improvement. By this point in history, being a baker was not considered a very good occupation. Society looked down on bakers in general, possibly because of the additives they had been forced to add (e.g. chicken feed and other questionable substances) when there were poor wheat harvests. However, the historians explained that Canadian wheat was being exported to the UK in the 1870s and sugar from the West Indies was becoming cheaper. The cake maker was delighted to be able to experiment with the new wheat as she made London buns, the closest one could get to pastry or cake at the time.
Another change that was taking place during this period was the movement of poorer people from towns and villages to cities for work in factories and mills. Yet another was a demand on the baker from the middle class for lighter, sweeter creations. These two developments meant more business for bakers but much more work. Our 21st century participants found they had to bake through the night to satisfy their customers.
In Episode 3, mechanisation finally arrives in the form of the electric dough mixer in 1900. The bakers could not have been happier. The cake maker was able to finally take charge in this episode as she taught the bakers how to make cakes and sandwiches for afternoon tea. They said they were quite relieved they did not have to do that in real life. Bread making was much more their thing — and much easier.
We saw how the late Victorians craved brightly coloured icings — the gaudier, the better. The trend persists in commercial British baking to this day. The look was also rather inelegant, which did not bother the Victorians. The unrefined appearance remains the same today and its familiarity reassures Britons of continuity through the generations.
(Photo credit: Bakingmad.com)
Another development in the late Victorian era was the insistence of trade unions on new health, hygiene and safety rules. These brought about a much better working environment. With that came an increased appreciation for bakers, and it was at this time that the number of Master Bakers began to grow. Bakeries now had a clear hierarchy of a knowledgeable boss with assistants who specialised in one task every day. Hats and caps were worn, and the Master Baker had the floppy toque.
Some readers will remember the respect and awe they felt when buying bread in the late 20th century and seeing ‘the man in the white hat’ walk from his place by the ovens into the bake shop. Nowadays, nearly all of us buy bread from the supermarket. Another slice of history has vanished.
Spa towns in England still have vintage tea rooms which are more popular than ever. If you have the opportunity, make time for afternoon tea.
And, if you enjoy bread and history, Victorian Bakers is an excellent series. Watch now to avoid disappointment. It might only be on iPlayer for another few weeks.
Yesterday’s post looked at how Islamic extremism has developed in England over the past decade.
Today’s entry continues the theme, in a less dramatic way although a more personal one with regard to women. Emphases mine below.
The ‘Sharia’ driver
The Evening Standard Theatre Awards were held in London on November 21, 2015. (The Evening Standard is London’s local newspaper.) The English actress Frances Barber, 58, attended the ceremony.
She was wearing a long-sleeved ankle-length black gown with a high neckline and a shawl; click on the link for the full photo.
Afterwards, Barber got into the Uber taxi she had booked. She made small talk with the driver, remarking that it was a cold night.
The driver told her:
Well if you weren’t so disgustingly dressed…
He also told her that women should not be out alone at night.
She got out of the car, slammed the door and sought alternative transport.
Just had a sharia Uber driver, first time in London. Shocked. Reported.
And, she ended her second tweet — which recaps what I’ve already told you here — with:
THIS IS LONDON.
Uber are looking into the matter. We do not know what, if anything, happened to the driver. Barber’s next tweet was on November 26:
Thankyou for so many messages of support.Uber have taken this seriously & am grateful.But clearly there is an issue.
Frances Barber was not the only one who had a negative experience with an Uber driver. Her Twitter feed included tweets from another lady — from the Asian Subcontinent — who wrote:
My sister was told an Asian woman should not be out in late evening. Even tho with kids.
Uber must insist that their drivers refrain from making comments of a misogynistic nature, just as they would refrain from offering opinions on social or political matters.
The problem is that these drivers have no professional driving qualifications. As Ed West pointed out in The Spectator:
… if people want a fully-trained driver who knows what he’s doing, has invested both his time and money in his career, and is licensed, then get a black cab. Uber is not a taxi service; it’s merely a mechanism to hire some random guy to drive you around for a pittance – don’t be surprised if he’s not quite possessed of a Morgan Freeman level of repartee and diligence.
There is also the mind-set that goes along with celebrities and upper-middle class people flocking to Uber instead of black cabs in the capital. Uber attracts these passengers, nearly all of whom are left-wing. There is a case of cognitive dissonance here, as West explains:
Janice Turner recently pointed out in The Times that her friends ‘wouldn’t grind an unfairly traded coffee bean, they champion the living wage and want to tax global evaders like Starbucks and yet Uber leaves such principles squished in the road’.
The Times is behind a paywall, but West’s article has a legible photo of Turner’s article which says that Uber wants to flood London with drivers. Indeed, the Daily Mail article cited above says that they already have 15,000. Turner says that Uber drivers from Manchester (North West England) are going up to London to work weekends.
West rightly notes that there seems to be a British bias against drivers of black cabs. They are satirised as opinionated blowhards. In reality, like West, I have had very few conversations with them. Most prefer not to talk.
West points out that foreign taxi drivers also have political views:
I’ve had some interesting chats – most recently there was a lovely Iranian guy who hated the religious authorities and wanted to restore the Shah, which I’m totally down with – but I’ve also spoken to people who believe the Mossad were behind 9/11. Imported prejudices are not so much a target for Radio 4 comedy, but as Europe is finding out, these days they are much more extreme and dangerous.
Other news stories
Frances Barber’s unfortunate Uber encounter took place in the aftermath of the Paris attacks when Brussels was on lockdown and a day before Channel 4 broadcast Women of ISIS.
There were other related news stories. The Sun received fierce criticism for their poll taken in the wake of the Paris attacks. It shows that 19% of Muslims have ‘sympathy’ for those who go to Syria to fight for IS. The percentage is higher for those aged between 18 and 34.
Oddly, no one criticised the more dramatic results of the BBC’s poll of Muslims which followed the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January — 27% of respondents had ‘sympathy’ for the terrorists.
Why? Is it because The Sun is perceived as being a white working class paper? Is it because most people find Charlie Hebdo a repulsive publication? I think so. Therefore, both can be safely ignored.
Biased BBC has a good post on the subject, including the Frances Barber story. Incidentally, Barber is currently starring in a BBC series, Silk:
… if a non-Muslim spoke like that to a Muslim woman in a Niqab that would be classed as hate speech…why the difference? The BBC would be all over that story …
The BBC has not reported this story of ‘racial’ abuse….even though the victim is one of its own employees….the BBC would rather cover up for a Muslim extremist than defend its own employee in the interest of ‘community cohesion’.
They mention the difference in perception of the two aforementioned surveys.
As for Women of ISIS:
You may remember the BBC also totally ignored the astonishing expose by C4’s Dispatches programme ‘Undercover Mosque’ which revealed what the extremists were saying behind the closed doors of British mosques. The BBC instead spent the same week trashing Jade Goody for a ‘racist’ comment she made in the heat of the moment during an argument in the Big Brother house…great to see what the BBC’s real priorities are….never mind extremist Muslim hate speech, instead launch an all out, week long attack on a white (with a mixed-race father), working class girl.
Odd isn’t it what the BBC prioritises and what it seeks to hide. Three Muslim girls go off to be Jihadi brides and the BBC is there for them and their families….however, Muslim women aiding and abetting the radicalisation and recruitment of such girls in the name of Islam and the BBC ignores it.
This is the problem England will continue to have regarding Islam and why extremism is likely to increase rather than decrease in the short term.
The BBC are partly to blame. The BBC have a huge hold on the British public. Our neighbours religiously watch their news programmes and adopt the Beeb’s perspective on everything. There are millions more just like them.
At least the newspapers came out in support of Frances Barber. However, they need to also find out about other Uber drivers and anyone else who is telling women to stay off the streets at night.
We are not too different to Belgians and Swedes who attempt to brush a real problem aside in the name of tolerance with unenviable consequences. Belgian Jews are now beginning to leave the country. Nearly all of Sweden’s rapes are committed by one demographic. However, these are seen as minor issues which have been exaggerated.
At least France’s Muslim pundits are now beginning to speak out firmly against radicalisation. Mohammed Chirani, a political analyst and anti-terror specialist, is one such example. I have often heard him on RMC (radio). He speaks sense on many subjects. After the Paris attacks, he appeared on France’s iTele with this message (English subtitles at the MEMRI link). He says, in part, to the notional ‘caliph’ of IS, his followers and the Paris attackers:
We are the ones who will be kept firm. Truth is on our side. You are the wrongdoers. Know that our dead, the innocent French citizens, are in Paradise, and your dead, the terrorists, are in Hell. Know that Allah is our Protector and that you have no protector.
I’d like to tell you that you will not succeed in igniting the fire of strife in France … I’d like to tell you that we will wage jihad against you with the Quran. I’d like to tell the traitors who deceived France, betrayed their country and burned their IDs that we are kissing our ID documents.
At that point, he kissed his French passport.
England could use at least one, if not several, Mohammed Chiranis.
Yesterday’s post began a series on British women working outside the home during the Great War.
You might wish to read it, if you have not already done so, for general background on their status.
Munitionettes – ‘canary women’
By 1915, women all over Britain were involved in some way in the war effort.
Those who had worked ‘in service’ — as domestic help — often found work in munitions factories. They were sometimes referred to as munitionettes.
Britain had a shortage of artillery shells, which came to light in the Shell Crisis scandal. Prime Minister Herbert Asquith appointed David Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions. According to Kate Adie, Lloyd George saw a place for women in munitions factories. From behind the scenes he helped Emmeline Pankhurst to organise a demonstration of women asking to help in this regard. On the day, he appeared afterwards to speak to the women. Shortly thereafter, work on artillery shells increased rapidly, with the ladies’ help.
Working with explosives was dangerous. Death was always a possibility. The Rotherwas Munitions Factory in Hereford had a number of huts, each with thick concrete-reinforced walls. In case one hut exploded, the others would remain standing. The documentary showed us that, even today, slender tapers of TNT are still carefully bundled together and tied by hand.
Other hazards of munitions factory work included reactions to the powder: swollen faces, skin rashes and, worst of all, yellow skin. It was impossible not to breathe it in, to wash it off or to expel it. In fact, when these women walked into towns or villages to run errands, people were amazed to see their yellow skin and clothes. As such, they became known as ‘canary women’.
Adie interviewed Gladys Sangster, who was born in 1917. Her mother worked in a munitions factory. She had inhaled so much powder whilst working that Gladys was born yellow.
That said, the munitionettes felt as if they had been ‘let out of the cage’. They were outside of the home — theirs or someone else’s. They were earning their own salaries, which, by the end of the war, was three times that of what they had been earning as domestic servants. Furthermore, they were forming their own friendships with other women and enjoying their independence.
However, the spectre of death was as much over their heads as it was for the men fighting in Flanders.
The Germans had targeted British munitions factories. The end of a 12-hour shift did not mean the end of danger for these woman who were frequently evacuated, day and night.
Association and league football was eventually suspended during the Great War. Too many men were serving in Europe.
Factory women and those working elsewhere for the war effort started organising their own games locally, even though then, as now, football was considered to be harmful to female reproductive organs.
The government was keen to ensure women workers got plenty of food to keep them healthy. The Great War saw the creation of works canteens for this purpose. Women were delighted to eat a balanced meal at least once a day. For many, meat was a luxury, so they welcomed a regular portion of it with potatoes and vegetables.
The government was also eager to ensure the women got plenty of fresh air in their free time. Football was one way to keep the women active and refreshed. Cities and towns began organising female football teams. Sometimes, women played men. The men had to have their hands tied behind their backs so as not to have an unfair advantage. Male goalkeepers were allowed to have one hand free.
Bella Reay was a top goal scorer during the Great War. She scored well over 100 goals in one season. Adie spoke with her granddaughter who showed her Reay’s gold medal given to her after the Munition Girls Final.
Ladies football continued after the war until 1921, when the Football Association banned it, saying it was too dangerous.
Female police, toughness and night life
The Great War gave birth to the girls’ night out.
The general public were shocked to see groups of working women invading the previously male-dominated pubs in the evenings. It was immoral. Ladies didn’t do that sort of thing.
Furthermore, people commented on the toughness of the women. It’s not surprising, but I do wonder how it manifested itself later on through their children, especially daughters, and in their grandchildren.
Margaret Damer Dawson sought to resolve this moral panic. She was the step-daughter of Thomas de Grey, the 6th Baron Walsingham. She was very much involved with good causes concerning women, children and animals. During the early part of the war, she and Nina Boyle patrolled the streets of London helping Belgian women refugees who were in danger of becoming prostitutes. Boyle led a team of women volunteers. Dawson was her assistant. The group was known as Women Police Volunteers and operated by government permission. It gradually expanded its scope outside of London.
In 1915, Boyle left the Women Police Volunteers over a disagreement over an incident involving women workers in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Boyle did not wish to have curfews for adult women. Dawson did. This set the tone for the next few years, with Dawson’s new Women’s Police Service. The posts were unpaid and strictly volunteer.
Incidentally, policemen told their top brass that they had no desire to work alongside ‘copperettes’. Therefore, the male officers had their patrols and the women theirs.
The Women’s Police Service focussed on children in trouble and female factory workers. The women factory workers resented the women constables’ attempts to ‘keep them in line’.
However, at work, where there were male employees, conflict sometimes broke out between the sexes. Dawson’s constables were called into a few establishments for daily patrols and to quell any disputes between male and female employees. Adie says that a ‘class system’ of hierarchy was set up so that females deferred to their male superiors with no arguments.
Although this all sounds rather orderly and righteous, after the war ended, the government rejected requests from Dawson’s Women’s Police Service to join the newly-created teams of women constables, who were paid for their work. The government termed the volunteers ‘sour, middle-aged fanatics’.
Dawson, quite possibly, never recovered from the rejection. She died of a heart attack in 1920.
Next: More causes, more work — including medicine
With so many young men in the trenches, someone had to continue the work they were doing before conscription.
In 1914, the home front opened up. Women would never be the same again. The ensuing four years would demonstrate that women could be as active and as productive as men.
Last year — on August 13, 2014 — veteran BBC reporter Kate Adie made a one-hour documentary on this extraordinary period in history. It is called Kate Adie’s Women of World War One, based on her book Fighting on the Home Front, and was shown on BBC2. What follows is a summary of the programme, eye-opening in many respects.
At the beginning of the 20th century, women were few and far between in work outside the home. It was unimaginable that they would be doctors or lawyers. A woman had men to represent and serve her in all aspects of life.
Many men took Paul’s verses from 1 Corinthians 14 and applied them not only to public worship but also private life:
…33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.
Of course, most Britons — men and women — were scandalised by women who dared to speak out, protest and put their lives in danger: the suffragettes, led by Emmeline Pankhurst.
It should be remembered that Pankhurst and her supporters wanted women votes only for a segment of the population. They did not want all women to vote, only those who were educated or who were property owners. Suffragists, on the other hand, wanted universal suffrage.
The home front opens
In August 1914, Pankhurst faced a dilemma. Would she and the suffragettes support the war effort — siding with the government they protested against — or pursue their campaign?
Pankhurst decided to suspend the campaign. She renamed their journal The Suffragette to Britannia with the slogan:
For king, for country, for freedom.
Meanwhile, the government needed thousands of men to enlist in the military. They created a campaign aimed at women, who, as moral arbiters, would encourage — shame, perhaps — their sons, brothers, sweethearts and husbands into uniform.
The popular music hall star Vesta Tilley decided to dress as a soldier as part of her act and sing a song encouraging sign-up. This was a shocking development, because women did not dress like men — ever. A tie? Trousers? Hair shoved under a cap and hidden? Unthinkable. It went against the biblical order of men’s and women’s roles. When Tilley premiered the new song at a Royal Command Performance, Queen Mary and many other women lowered their heads. They could not bear to look at her.
Yet, the press picked up on Tilley’s new act and, before long, everyone knew about it. Her audiences cheered. She continued dressing as a soldier and singing her war effort song.
By September 2014, 200,000 men had enlisted. Not all of the numbers were thanks to Tilley. Announcements in what we call the small ads in the back of newspapers also helped. Poster campaigns aimed at women as well as men were also influential.
Women from the aristocracy and landed gentry led the way in getting involved. The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry — FANY — was formed as was the Women’s Volunteer Reserve. Both groups had uniforms — jackets and skirts — but those in the Women’s Volunteer Reserve had to purchase their own. At a cost of £2 per uniform, it was a sum that only middle class women could afford.
Some of those women became ambulance drivers.
Women from the lower social classes volunteered to cook and clean.
The two Marys
Queen Mary (left) started a needlework guild to encourage British women to knit warm clothes and accessories for the troops. These items included dressing gowns, pyjamas and hot water bottle covers.
The few women who were working in the textile and weaving industry objected. They belonged to the National Union of Women Workers, which safeguarded their employment and salaries. Mary Macarthur (right) headed the union and campaigned for equality in the workplace. She publicly objected to Queen Mary’s needlework guild as a threat to the union members.
Queen Mary wasted no time in summoning Macarthur to the palace. They had a long conversation. Both Marys were said to have ‘got on famously’ by the end of the meeting. They were both women of strong character and determination. Queen Mary asked Macarthur for more information on the plight of poor women forced to work. It wasn’t long before Queen Mary began visiting charities and hospitals for the poor. The press dubbed her the Charitable Bulldozer.
Tomorrow: women at work
Remembrance Sunday, commemorated at the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall, is always a moving experience, even if we watch it at home on BBC1.
This year, on November 8, 2015, 10,500 old soldiers, women’s auxiliaries, nurses, many others who served the United Kingdom in conflict and their families participated in the march-past.
One wreath-bearer was 100 years old. Another was 89, the youngest in his band of brothers from the Second World War. Yet another was blind. Those who could walk did so in military fashion. Those who were in wheelchairs sat up straight. Many of these men are elderly, some in great pain, no doubt. Yet, just as they did on the battlefield or on ship, they gave not a thought for themselves. They came to remember.
The array of berets, caps, medals, uniforms and wreaths is an incredible sight to behold. They really bring home a sense of history, heritage and shared memory that all these men and women have. Some make a weekend out of it, getting together with friends in the days beforehand to share a meal and remember their fallen comrades as well as the happier times.
The BBC’s Sophie Raworth interviewed a number of the veterans. One said that, during the two-minute silence, a flood of emotional memories raced through his mind: recalling friends who were killed, his relief at being liberated from a German POW camp in 1945 and the incredible joy he felt arriving home that year to embrace his family, whom he thought he’d never see again.
Others said that the two-minute silence completely enveloped Whitehall, seemingly unimaginable with the thousands of spectators lining the march-past route between the Cenotaph and Horse Guards Parade. It was solemn and sad. Yet, afterward, the veterans did as they always do, remember the good times, even in battle. Their comradeship, good humour and dignity are incredible things to see. We have been blessed to have their determination, integrity and courage. That goes doubly for those these 10,500 men and women travelled from far and wide — including Africa — to remember: those who gave their todays that we might have a tomorrow.
Like millions of other Britons, I wear my poppy with gratitude and reflection for those who died for our freedom.
May we never forget the sacrifices those brave men and women made on our behalf.
May we observe two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day, November 11 — Armistice Day — when the Great War came to an end. It had horrors no one could have contemplated. It was to be the war that ended all wars. And yet, the Second World War followed only two decades later.
In closing, if you have not seen a Remembrance Sunday ceremony, these two YouTube videos will give you a better idea of the sheer scale and ceremony involved.
The first is from 2014 and shows the beginning of the wreath laying, with the Queen placing the first at the foot of the Cenotaph:
The second shows the march-past — from 2011 — which follows the wreaths laid by the Queen, members of the Royal Family, politicians and Commonwealth dignitaries: