Thursday, 2 October 2014

Sport, South Africa and Education


Our view at Newlands for South Africa vs Australia
Whilst I have not blogged here for a while, I have been busy elsewhere with other blog postings such as this one on the Disobedient Objects exhibition for The Justice Gap, but a recent trip to South Africa  has prompted me to write again. This was the third time I have visited South Africa, all as part of ongoing research that Steve Greenfield and I are involved with, in conjunction with colleagues at the Education and Human Rights in Diversity Unit (Edu-HRight) at North-West University. As usual, the trip was thoroughly enjoyable and useful, although not without its thought provoking moments.

The research we have been involved with has revolved primarily around the roles of sports coaches and organisers, including those in Schools, and looks at a variety of issues surrounding this including the vexed problem of liability and the fear of litigation. We published a piece about one aspect of this in the Journal of Juridical Science in 2011 and are currently working on a number of new ideas. This trip was a pretty packed one. It began with very fruitful meetings with, amongst others, Marius Franken, the man who trains referees for the South African Rugby Union and Pierre Viviers, a Medical Doctor from the University of Stellenbosch who is heavily involved with medical issues affecting South African rugby. This was followed immediately with a session delivering a workshop to around 75 coaches and educators in Stellenbosch that went down very well.  This was the second joint workshop we had delivered, this one in the Cape following one previously delivered in North West Province in 2012. The Cape is a fantastically beautiful area, but some of the issues that still exist were starkly evident on the door to the school...
We took in a trip to the South African Rugby Museum the next day. This is down by the beautiful Waterfront area  and as you would expect in a country as mad about sport as South Arica, and particularly its rugby, it provided a very impressive and thorough take on the history and development of South African rugby.

To its credit, it also tackled full on some of the more contentious issues around sport in South Africa, and particularly the effect upon sport of the apartheid regime. The history and background to the Stop the Seventy Tour campaign, something that Steve Greenfield and I had written about in the past - see Enough is Enough. Race Cricket and Protest in the UK, was covered along with details of the broader sporting boycotts. The museum visit was a great hors d'oeuvre before a trip to Newlands to see South Africa take on Australia for a game far tighter than the close scoreline would suggest. 

Upon leaving Cape Town we visited NWU at Potchefstroom, delivering some guest lectures at a sports colloquium arranged for B.Ed students training to be physical education teachers, and attending a very promising meeting with James Stoffberg,  the Vice President of SARU, about how our research might be of use to them. Hopefully we will be able to report on some exciting developments here in due course. Our hosts JP Rossouw and Kassie Karstens looked after us superbly as always, and the Sports Village where we stayed in Potchefstroom was superbly equipped. This was the training base for the Spanish team during the World Cup in 2010 and we were delighted to discover that the room we stayed in was in fact used by Javi Martinez during that time - something we tweeted about and, amazingly, he retweeted this! So all in all a busy and fruitful trip, lots of useful work done and lots of promise for the future. 


Friday, 27 June 2014

End of the Group Stages Psychosis Blues

Well, its come to that terrible time when the Group stages finish and the unthinkable happens - a day without football. Luckily I still have my World Cup cooking concoctions to think about though so all is not lost. The knock out stages present a whole new host of issues for my diet, as I intend, as far as possible, to theme the meals based not only on the games themselves, but also eliminate foods from countries that have been previously represented in my own culinary stakes. So Saturday's games present me with some unique problems.

On Saturday we have Brazil v Chile and Columbia v Uruguay. Now I have already cooked Brazilian and Uruguayan so eliminating these its looking like some sort of Colombian/Chile mash up is in order. For Sunday, we have Holland v Mexico and Costa Rica v Greece, now I didn't blog the recipes but I have already cooked Greek and Mexican, but luckily my mooted Spanish/Dutch fusion for the group game did not materialise as I settled for straight tapas so I have freed up Costa Rica and Holland for our Sunday lunch. I'll report back on these later, but for now, here's what I cooked  for the Germany v Ghana game:

Jollof Rice with Sausages

This classic Ghanian recipe was adapted from the Guardian Weekend Jamie Oliver recipes where he gave some World Cup ideas. Obviously I'm vegetarian so chicken thighs were out, and given  that Germany were the opponents, and cognisant of their love of a sausage, a selection of vegetarian sausages were utilised. I would personally recommend the Quorn Best Of range - delicious. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture.

Ingredients:
300g cherry tomatoes
2 onions, chopped
3 or 4 garlic cloves, or garlic puree
red chilli, seeded (or don't bother if you like it stronger)
1tbsp tomato puree
300g ripe tomatoes chopped
500ml vegetable stock
250g long grain rice
1/2 tsp paprika
1tsp ground coriander
handful chopped flat leaf parsley

1) Roast cherry tomatoes with some olive oil until they begin to collapse
2) Fry onions, garlic, paprika, coriander and chilli in rapeseed oil until soft
3) Add tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and stock, bring to boil
4) Add rice, and simmer with lid on for 15/20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary
5) Stir in parsley, cherry tomatoes and mix well. Serve with the sausages and some lemon wedges
 
If you try it I hope you enjoy, and if you feel the urge perhaps dedicate it to Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng. If anyone is interested in my other blog, I blogged yesterday on what was for me the 25th anniversary of my following the Stone Roses around the country,  but for now, its back to the day job.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

World Cup Food Odyssey Continued

Over a week into World Cup 2014, generally the football has been great although the food I have been preparing has been preferable to the English and Spanish performances (spirited first half against Italy notwithstanding), and since the success of my opening night Feijoada, I have embraced my World Cup culinary journey with varying degrees of success. This has involved some fairly traditional fare, such as Spanish and Italian variations which I often cook, but where possible my food boundaries have been transgressed. Sunday's games, for example, allowed me to expand my repertoire not once, but twice. Honduras's game with France inspired me to a lunchtime Honduran Salad, and the later Argentina vs Bosnia game, an Argentinian lentil stew.

Honduran Mixed Greens with Sweet Potato and Feta

Ingredients:
3/4 lb sweet potato, cut into 1 cm dice
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tbsp fresh lime juice (use rest for caipirinhas)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
150ml greek yoghurt + 50 ml milk (sorry for mixed measures!)
10oz greens (I used kale, and mixed in some mange tout for good measure)
3 oz feta cheese

Method:
1 Steam sweet potatoes for 5 minutes, drain until dry
2 Fry sweet potato in oil for 15 minutes, shaking occasionally, until crisp and remove and drain
3 Mix lime juice, balsamic, garlic mustard and salt and pepper. Whisk in yoghurt and milk
4 Steam greens, place in bowl with cheese and toss with dressing
5 Top with sweet potatoes and serve

It tasted grand, and looked like this:
The Argentinian lentil stew was pleasant if not earth shattering, with some interesting use of apple, but I will not trouble you with the recipe here unless public demand necessitates this. Monday was due to be a Portuguese soup, but legume fatigue was getting to me so a decision was made to defer the Portuguese offering until the second group game at the weekend, and a late substitution of German sausages and mustard was made. This was the equivalent of taking off Raheem Sterling and bringing on James Milner, but needs must in the white heat of the World cup cooking cauldron.

Tuesday and Wednesday presented me with my first logistical difficulties. On Tuesday I was already booked to go and see the Amazing Snakeheads at the Meltdown Festival with my dear friends the Spice Monkey and Alex 'U2' Sinclair. Notwithstanding the change of personnel, which sounds like an intriguing story in itself, the band were great as they always are, but as I was not at home no World Cup dish was created. Similarly Hertford U12 cricket on Wednesday meant there was no time for a football delight that night either so my efforts of theming every meal were looking over ambitious.

It would have been easy on Thursday to take on embrace the best that  English cuisine has to offer, but given my conservatism on monday a Greek/Uruguayan combination was preferred. The Greek part of this was the sort of thing I often cook anyway - Halloumi kebabs and a Greek salad. Of course, I was careful to ensure that olives were kalamata and I tweaked a BBC Good food baste recipe for a baste, but these were fairly standard dishes. It took me a little longer to find the Uruguayan complement, but I eventually found  the recipe for an excellent Uruguayan Bean Salad, adapted from something i found on myrecipes.

Uruguayan Bean Salad

Ingredients:
1 tin kidney beans (I had no time to boil up from dried, if i had i would have added some more)
2 skinned and seeded ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp, red wine vinegar
handful chopped flatleaf parsley
1tbsp olive oil
1tsp paprika

Combine all ingredients, season with salt and black pepper and serve

I didn't take a picture at the time, but luckily as I am eating leftovers for lunch today you can see it here.
On Friday with the rest of the house living it up elsewhere, and to capture the national mood encapsulated by Gary Lineker's Italian shirt  we booked to go out for some Italian food, by then of course Costa Rica had already pulled off a fine victory, but at least the food was good. The week ahead promises the long awaited Portuguese soup and a Ghanian/German fusion amongst others.

Normal service will soon return to this blog, and look out for a Stone Roses flavoured Tickets of Distinction later in the week, but bear with me for now as I try and eat my way through the World Cup.

Friday, 13 June 2014

World Cup Cooking - It's coming home

In something of a departure for the blog, but to satisfy my, ahem, many followers on twitter, I intend for the next month to occasionally post detailing my World Cup 2014 Food Odyssey. For previous tournaments I have attempted to tie in a themed meal with the various games during the tournament, with a mixed domestic culinary reception if I am honest. With the wall chart up, and with my first article about WC 2014 published in The Justice Gap yesterday, I posted a tweet of my proposed pre Opening match meal. My intention is that this would be the first in an attempt to theme a meal for every day a match takes place throughout World Cup 2014. It's a journey that hopes to take in Bosnia, Iran, South Korea, the Ivory Coast and others, and is sure to cause me some culinary nightmares and food provenance issues. Of course this is compounded by the fact that I am also a vegetarian to add a further dietary complication into the mix.  Never one to shirk a challenge, the first match, pitching hosts Brazil against the wily Croatia, proved fairly easy to deal with. Whilst some fusion cooking will take place on certain days, especially during the group stages where up to four games are taking place offering me any number of permutations, my opening gambit was for an adaptation of one of the classic Brazilian dishes, Feijoada, and the recipe appears below.

Vegetarian Feijoada

Ingredients
2 tins of black beans (of course I am one of those lentil-loving sandal-wearing types, so I boiled some up the previous day myself - feel free to do this if you can think of nothing better to do)
1 onion chopped
1 tin tomatoes
1 yellow, 1 red pepper
1/2 medium butternut squash
50g chipotle paste (use any chipotle based sauce or seasoning to add the flavour)
3 crushed garlic cloves and some garlic paste (adapt as you wish)
Assorted herbs (see what you have, but thyme is good, maybe some coriander although perhaps less authentic)

Method

1) Fry onions, peppers, tomato and garlic in small amount of oil until starting to soften
2) Add beans, squash, and around a tomato tin full of either cooking liquid if you are one of nature's bean boilers like myself, or some stock if not. Cook for around 30 minutes, stir occasionally
3) Add salt, and herbs to taste, cook for 5 minutes more
4) If like me you like it hot, look in fridge or cupboard for whatever your sauce of choice is. I like chilli puree or maybe Nandos extra hot. Note instruction 4) is not in the least bit authentic
5) Serve with some rice. I went short grain brown, but hey, I'm not going to tell you how or what to cook in the rice stakes.

I have to say I thought it was excellent, and in fact had some for my lunch today too. My thoughts have now turned to this evening, and I'm focussing upon the Spain Holland game and it may be my first attempt at fusion cooking.  My caipirinha requirements for this evening have been slightly stymied by a lack of cachaca in local outlets, although I am being contacted as soon as it arrives with my local man tomorrow lunchtime. If you are looking for drinks to have with this, or indeed drinks for any occasion, you could start by taking a look at the perhaps slightly tenuous, and dare i say bandwagon jumping collection put together by Worth Brothers - the Paul McGrath of wine merchants. Their wines are reliably excellent and great value, and you should also read the excellent column in tomorrow's Derby Telegraph by Tim, one of the Worth Brothers, entitled  Drinking outside the box.

Who knows where this will end, my own television programme or perhaps a best selling cookbook, but for now, back to planning tonight's menu.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Tickets of Distinction 2

I blogged recently of how much I enjoyed Letters of Note, and how it had inspired me to set up something if not similar, then at least influenced by it. Anyway, latest blog under the Tickets of Distinction moniker is here, and contains gratuitous reference to Anthony H Wilson, Coronation Street, the Manic Street Preachers, the genius of Richey Edwards, The Black Horse in Brooklyn, Mike Garry and Frank Sidebottom (you know it does, it really does) amongst others.

Next month is the twenty fifth anniversary of my trip around the country following The Stone Roses, you have been warned....


Friday, 25 April 2014

Talking to the Stroke Man about Poetry - Science, Stroke, Art 2014




I was 15 when my dad had his first stroke. I was 33 when his second stroke took his life in 2000. When he died I was really grateful for those 'extra' years, in many ways they were a bonus. I wasn't fully aware of it at the time but when he was initially taken to hospital in Luton they weren't sure he was going to make it  - he pulled through thankfully, and spent around six months in hospital, first in Luton then was transferred to Barts in London before eventually arriving home.  The man who returned to the house was a different man to the one that had left for work one morning and not returned all those months before. His stroke was on the right side of the brain, so affected the left hand side of his body - this seemed weird at the time  - a bizarre sort of reflective trick, but the upshot was he had little use in his left hand and struggled to walk. When he had his stroke, the physiotherapist in the hospital had been brilliant  - they were very keen to get him doing things as soon as possible, trying to get him to stand up and doing basic physiotherapy. During the first months at home he tried really hard to carry on these exercises, I remember him sitting watching TV endlessly squeezing a ball of Silly Putty to try and build some muscles and retain his fine motor skills in what he called his useless left hand.  Of course this lack of movement in his hand, exacerbated by his leaden left leg meant he couldn't do one of his real loves - driving his car.

Whilst born in Canada, my dad was a product of Britain's motor city - Birmingham, and had grown up loving motors, cars - he did his apprenticeship there and had worked at various companies such as Chrysler, Talbot and Peugeot, before the shifting job market meant he had to endure a 150 mile round coach trip daily to work at a plant in Dunstable when there were no jobs for him in his hometown. It was there that he had his stroke, just before Christmas, and my mum always maintained that this daily grind contributed to his stroke. So having his stroke deprived him of the car driving he loved, and the tinkering on engines in the garage that we had taken for granted, and he was never able to go back to work, cut off in his prime, and was left feeling frankly useless and dejected. I'm not sure how much help I was to him initially, at the time not really empathising with the enormity of the situation and what a life changing event it was, even though its as clear as crystal looking back on it now. I know he had black moments, and felt sorry for himself. It took him years to acknowledge that he was disabled,  but he was a real fighter and eventually persuaded his GP that he was fit enough to drive an automatic car and was eventually able to start driving again. It still took him years to apply for his disabled badge though as he didn't want to deprive people who he thought more in need. During these dark times a shining beacon pulled him through - the local Stroke Club and the Stroke Association. Its fair to say that most people don't understand what a stroke is unless they have been touched by it. When I was rung by the doctor to be told that he had had his stroke I thought it was something like a heart attack and asked whether he could speak to me on the phone - I had no idea of its impact and effect, and most people float by in blissful ignorance of it. The Stroke Association  are a brilliant group that try and address this in a number of ways, and in particular provide support on a number of levels to victims of stroke and their families. It was through this that my dad found the lifeline of Solihull Stroke Club, who were fantastic for my dad on so many levels.

Recently I met Mike Garry, a lovely man who I will be blogging about soon in a different context through my Tickets of Distinction blog (as a teaser, Anthony H Wilson, Manchester, the Hacienda and the Manic street Preachers will be involved).  Mike is a poet, and does a lot of work with stroke survivors, watch this brilliant video about how poetry has helped in this context  - its a really uplifting film, and whats more, full of hope. Through Mike I also heard about this brilliant initiative, Science Stroke Art, thats taking place in Manchester in May.  There are lots of events designed to raise awareness of stroke and 'the programme includes talks, theatre, story-telling science and art demonstrations in order to capture people's imagination and challenge misconceptions about stroke'. It looks and sounds brilliant, and another reminder of the brilliant work that so many people do. These sort of things are in need of as much support as we can give. It starts on Thursday May 1st with a launch event and if anyone is around the North West please try and go along to something, or if not at least have a look at some of the brilliant things these groups do. My dad would have approved, and so do I.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Tickets of Distinction

I have really enjoyed Letters of Note and its occasional tweets on often very poignant letters, in fact I liked it so much that I bought the book for my partner for Christmas. It got me thinking about my own personal treasure trove of oddities, the gig tickets I have collected over the years since my first foray into consuming live music at the age of 14, with the magnificent XTC, something that I have blogged about previously. The Letters of Note series got me thinking that maybe I should use these tickets in a similar sort of vein, and use them as a point of departure to discuss other issues related to the event, the date, the band, the venue, or something else completely unrelated. I would call this Tickets of Distinction, a name with its own indie reference points but partly a homage to the Letters of Note idea. So, this is the first in an occasional and irregular series of posts that will celebrate, or commemorate a gig from the past. Who knows, maybe one day it will be a book too.

On 10 April 1992, 22 years ago today, Allison and I went along to see the Boo Radleys co-headlining with the Pale Saints at the Astoria on Charing Cross Road, now sadly razed to the ground to make way for the Crossrail project. To be honest the Astoria was never my favourite venue, although I have seen some notable gigs there over the years including Richey's last ever gig with the Manic Street Preachers (I'll save that for a post in December maybe!) and even some classics in the downstairs Astoria 2 which was a bit of a fire trap, but the Astoria was certainly an important venue, and central London now lacks a similar sized venue of its type. That day, both of these bands were broadly part of that indie/shoe-gazing scene that was later decimated by the onward roar of Britpop, currently celebrating its own 20th anniversary on BBC Radio 6, and of the two bands only the Boo Radleys achieved much success, later clinging as they did to the hem of Blur, Oasis, Pulp and the rest with their one hit Wake up Boo. The gig itself was enjoyable enough. I had liked Pale Saints, who came on first that night I think, since I first heard their 'Barging into the Presence of God EP', with stand out track The Sight of You. The band had formed at Leeds whilst I was at college there and the song was, allegedly, about a friend of a friend. I liked the The Boo Radleys album Everything's Alright Forever too, it had been critically lauded, although my thoughts that maybe it was an overlooked gem was not borne out by a listen via spotify as part of the research for this piece.

The gig was actually only memorable in that whilst we were in the venue, at 9.20, the Provisional IRA exploded a bomb at the Baltic Exchange, killing three people,  injuring 91 others. Elsewhere in London the effects of 45kg of Semtex were also felt, a friend in Clapton reported being knocked off her feet, but we left the venue, some two miles from the Baltic Exchange, in the days before instant media saturation and given the high noise levels inside the Astoria, blissfully unaware of the bombing until the next morning. The site of the Baltic Exchange is now host to the Swiss Re building, better known as the Gherkin and here depicted by Stanley Donwood in his Fleet Street Apocalypse series. Since that evening The Boo Radleys and Pale Saints have long gone their separate ways, the Astoria has been destroyed and the Good Friday Agreement has been signed. London's skyline has changed, and indeed London itself has changed. I'm still going to the gigs though so at least something has remained constant, and this occasional series of posts will catalogue, and celebrate, some of these outings. I have put this post here and also on a new dedicated blog, entitled Tickets of Distinction where these will appear from now on.