Monday, 28 July 2008

British Airways' Terrifying Tactics

On a recent British Airways' flight from Stockholm to London I cautiously opened my complimentary sandwich wrapped in layers of plastic.  It was, needless to say, pretty unappetising so, as I left the bland cheese and lettuce, I searched through the other material given out; a little carton of milk and stirrer (regardless as to whether you want to tea or coffee) and a small bag entitled "Waste Bag".  This plastic bag, wrapped in its own plastic, is intended for you to fill with the excess plastic and cardboard waste that they have just handed to you.  A grossly blasé act from a company that should be trying to counter-act its ecologically unsound nature in anyway it can.  Would it be impossible for British Airways to use reusable containers for their drinks and sandwiches?  Or even to get people to say when they book the flight whether they want a sandwich?  No doubt a lot of food goes to landfill unopened or partially eaten as it is just so tasteless and nasty.

After my sandwich and during the descent into BA's jewel in their crown, Terminal 5, we were played a short video on what to do once we entered the terminal building.  All very ordinary, simple stuff until the voice announced words to this effect: "If you are getting a connecting UK domestic flight then follow purple signs inside the terminal building where your biometric details will be taken."  I thought for a long time about why exactly, if I were taking a domestic flight, would they need to record my biometric details;  I have already been allowed to fly out of the country and back in again suggesting that I'm not some kind of criminal and I possess a passport, the most official piece of information one can have in the UK.  The day after, the issue still on my mind, I remarked upon the bemusing detail at work.  "If you've got nothing to hide, then you needn't worry" was the response.  Luckily I didn't have to take a connecting domestic flight but if I had I doubt I would have been able to refuse to give up my data.  Will we all now be forced into leaving behind our civil liberties and be satisfied with the saying "If you've got nothing to hide...".

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Let Me Stand Alone

Rachel Corrie was flattened by an Israeli bulldozer whilst trying to protect the homes of Palestinian civilians in 2003.  Her emails to her family back home in Olympia, Washington State were published in The Guardian soon after her death.  The play "My Name is Rachel Corrie", directed by Alan Rickman, was shown in London in 2005.  I first learnt about her life in The Observer Magazine in early March 2008.  I quickly ordered her book eager to learn more about her work in Palestine up until her death.  As I started reading the book compiled from scraps of writing, as a child and during her teens and early twenties, I realised there was more to her than what eventually made her well known.

Growing up in the leafy town of Olympia she had a conscience more sophisticated than a usual child, aged 11 she writes:
 "Maybe if people stopped thinking of themselves, and started thinking of the other sides of things, people wouldn't hurt each other."  It was this philosophy that eventually led to her work as an activist in her home town and finally as an ISM volunteer in the Gaza Strip.

The book is not centered around her work in Palestine but rather her development as a person; it documents, in all her own writings, her love of nature, her family, her school and university life and her friends.  Her writing appears sometimes as poems, as stories or letters to the ones she loved, but all time with a lively spirit.  Even with no interest in the conflict in the Middle East this book is a captivating insight into the life of an American girl, from a country which so often seems insular and selfish.

Rachel Corrie gave the people of Palestine hope that they would see an end to the fierce war in their homeland.  She has given me hope that, no matter where in the world you live, whatever media you are influenced by or political leanings you have, you can connect with the injustice and the strife of the Palestinian people and we can all do something to help.

"Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie" published by Granta Books.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Jovial Johnson

Friday 2nd May heralded Boris Johnson's election as Mayor of London.  Many have been uncertain as to whether he can do the job well, and of course we are yet to see, but I think it's a good day for politics.  The time has come for someone who can carry out a political post with quick wit and a light heart;  politicians wield a power that can depress or sadden us in a fleeting moment, at last we might have someone to cheer us up instead.  Hurrah to Boris and the Tories' turning tide against dull, depressing Brown.

Portrait by Felicity Gill.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Street walking

Driving has lots of rules and regulations.  That's why I like being a pedestrian; no one can tell you definitively how you should walk down the street although perhaps some people need to learn a bit of pavement etiquette: one should always step out the way for a child, someone pushing a pram, an elderly man or woman, or someone who has trouble walking. 

Inside a car a motorist has lots of polite little gestures: flash your lights to give way and raise your hand, in a kind of drivers' salute, when someone has given way to you.  But when one person is on the street and the other is behind the wheel I feel that the niceties break down.  

Just the other day I was standing on the curb of a junction hoping that someone would stop so I could make it home to eat my tea.  A man did stop, kind you might say, but then to indicate to me that I should cross the road he took his index finger, pointed at me, and then pointed at the other side of the street in a rather aggressive manner.  Of course I am being overly sensitive but maybe next time a car stops for me the driver could lightly wave his hand in a graceful style or else I might have to follow Richard Ashcroft and walk over the bonnet.

Monday, 31 March 2008

You can rule your life in the fine shop Sky-Lark

I returned today to the shop where I bought a finger puppet for my niece just before Christmas.  I bought three more to add to her collection.  They have a big selection of different fairly traded animals, some more exotic than others.

Perhaps being able to buy fair trade toys in Lewes, or anywhere for that matter, is nothing out of the ordinary: fair trade goods are now the order of the day.  Sky-Lark, however, has an interesting mix of products; frivolities seen in the picture but also books, world music, foreign-language films and even food.  

It was the small selection of couscous, almonds and olive oil that was the most interesting; they all came from various cooperatives in Palestine.  It is heartening to see Palestinian products on 
sale even in a small town like Lewes.  Let's hope that Palestine, a country with an economy broken by various embargoes, has more future trade with the world and that we see more Palestinian goods in our shops soon.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Carla Bruni, a politician's wife like no other?

Now the seemingly endless chatter in the British press about Carla Bruni has cooled down perhaps it's time to reflect. 
Carla Bruni, or should I say Sarkozy, is a supermodel.  She is the first lady of France.  She is from Italian aristocracy.  So is it any surprise that she wears a wardrobe of Christian Dior clothes, looks beautiful and greets the Queen with gracious poise? 

Now Carla fever has hit Britain with high speed gales the British woman could be forgiven for feeling a little windswept and fed up that her poshest frock (the one she'd meet the Queen in if she had to)  comes from Karen Millen.  The newspapers, whilst trying to create a story on a slow news week, have bemoaned the fact that our politician's wives are not nearly as stylish or glamorous. Obviously that is all one can hope to get out of politics: a beautiful politician's wife.  

Carla Bruni has hopped over the channel back to France but for now we can think about whether politics in Britain is stardom for the ugly. Or we could think about reality because in a world full of problems our thirst for celebrity can easily make us forget them in a second. 

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Not such a Sport Relief

I was watching Sport Relief last night with the two children I was babysitting for when I started to think; is this charity at all?   I am in no doubt that the work done by the charities that are supported by the public's donations do incredibly useful and life saving work but is it the right thing to just throw money at problems?

Many people today obviously think it is a solution; just look at the Federal Reserve pouring money into Bear Stearns  in order to keep the economy afloat and, on this side of the pond, the Labour government burning money in the NHS.    

But there was something that turned my stomach when watching a clip of "Sport Relief does the Apprentice":  Louise Redknapp, a rich pretty wag,  was persuading one of her "celebrity" friends to buy a ticket for an event they were running as part of the show.  "£100,000 for three tickets?  Oh you're a rockstar!" she yelped.  Quite sickening.  Injections of cash may help charities incredibly but won't eliminate poverty or social problems.  These things can only start to be eradicated by changing the attitudes of individuals so they can then influence the governments who have the real power.  It's a shame that the BBC didn't think about what charity can be like without vast amounts of money and glossy programs to dress it up.  After all, charity begins at home.