FIELD’S XXth Century Dictionary

0 Commentsby   |  07.07.11  |  Weblog, adventures, news, Weblog

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squint

0 Commentsby   |  07.07.11  |  Weblog, adventures, news, Weblog

Creative thinking in action. When you see the cards, they compel you to pick them up and move the wee blighters fore and aft to test your own focus whilst simulaneously and subliminally causing you to ingest some important scraps of wisdom whether you like it or not. Cunning, I know but it really is for your own good.

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Boxed and Labelled

2 Commentsby   |  02.15.11  |  Weblog, adventures, news, Uncategorized

We are Merchant & Mills. Of the two, I’m most likely Merchant. Our packaging reflects the company ethos of sound design with a nod to the past. By using strong images and  announcing the product titles in bold, capital letters, it reaches both sides of the brain at once: the visual right and the pragmatic, linguistic left. It is futile to resist. It works on me. It makes me want the things inside the package. I am reminding you to covet. More »

shoot the kids

1 Commentby   |  01.16.11  |  Weblog, adventures, news, Uncategorized, Weblog

The winter, now in full swing, puts a bit of a damper on outside jobs. The days are shorter, the weather unpredictable and the general tempo of things seems to slow down, grinding occasionally to an unwanted halt. Not being one to sit on my laurels waiting for the phone to ring or the email to ping, I took some time out this month to re-examine the offspring – photographically speaking. I like children. I made four and, if memory serves me correctly, I was once a child myself. I feel for mine though, as the progeny of a photographer they have between them endured some trials. When Edwyn, now 24, was eight or nine we took him one January afternoon to a freezing pond on Hampstead Heath where he had to stand shirtless, looking deathly and frozen for the jacket of a book; a grim tale of a depressed lad who one day turned and walked into a lake to be seen no more. In between shots Edwyn had to be cloaked in a towel and rubbed down. But at least he survived – and the book looked great.

I’m guessing that children are the most popular subject for pictures Gawd love ‘em. Yet still it’s rare that I see portraits or action shots that get to the heart of the wee beasties. There Is an awful lot of vibrant yet anodyne shots that look like Persil ads and the high street photographers, on the whole, perpetuate this shiny lifestyle look. The advent of mobile phones as cameras has done little to improve quality control and while I’m all for spontaneity, my tip is to slow down and be prepared for the spontaneous to occur. As Cartier Bresson said, ‘the more I practice the luckier I seem to get.’ On top of all this we all want our kids to look happy in pictures (so that they can’t later sue us for their therapy bills?) There must be piles to the moon of fake smiles and awkward grimaces attempting fake smiles. Anyone who likes a good movie will know that cheeriness and smiling is less poignant, somehow less deep, than the pensive and more emotional. Capturing those moments of struggle, reflection or simply day to day being is more likely to result in timeless, classic shots that the kids will want to keep and show. More »

balti birmingham

0 Commentsby   |  06.16.10  |  Weblog, adventures, Weblog

You cannot beat the vegetable baltis over in Sparkbrook,’ enthuses Colin, my grandly-turbanned Sikh cab driver, in a fierce Brummie accent, ‘it is to die for, but not literally, we all get on up here!’ he quips. So begins my introduction to the Balti triangle, Southeast of Birmingham’s heaving, modern city centre. It is a well-established melting pot, half a dozen streets being home to a vibrant Asian quarter, the majority of residents having roots in Pakistan’s east; Lahore and Kashmir. The area is under sporadic reconstruction since, in 2005, Sparkbrook found itself battered by 4 minutes of freak winds in Britain’s worst tornado in 30 years.  Undeterred the British born second, third and fourth generations continue to make a success of all things Pakistani. From Uncle’s Home Stores, selling household goods and specialised cooking equipment, to the , bespoke and bejewelled sari making, to indigenous sweets (ladoo, burfi and para) and authentic gourmet cooking, they are a tough lot, hewn from hard labour and perseverance in the face of discrimination and hardship.  The first wave of determined, Muslim migrants settled in this triangle of roads from the early 1960s when the established Irish residents, finding greater social acceptance became upwardly mobile and headed to the more genteel outlying suburbs. The neglected streets and cheap housing soon began to fill with newly arrived Pakistanis, seeking work at the nearby Lucas plant and the surrounding automotive factories. They brought with them their families, and their unique, spicy recipes; shops soon sprung up providing the fresh ingredients for a piquant taste of home like the unique Pakistani red carrots, renowned for their sweetness, or pre-packed fenugreek seeds and the ubiquitous ginger and garlic purée.

With the multi-faith mix demanding no beef or pork, the Lahore truckers’ favourite curry, cooked up in a hubcap (very spicy with chicken or lamb on the bone) is credited as the forefather of the Balti, according to veteran chef Mohammed Asram at the Al Frash Restaurant on Ladypool Road.  ‘The bone gives flavour and we know what we are eating!’  The famous, deliciously spicy Balti is a uniquely Birmingham invention (the fast-heating pressed steel bowl was originally made only here). More »

Fes el Bali

0 Commentsby   |  04.22.10  |  Weblog, adventures, Weblog

Fes is never still and never quiet. From the first white light of the day to the hazy thickening dusk, people with heads held straight, are moving with purpose and urgency.
The movement is swift and graceful, the sounds more gruff and violent. They say here that a still head is a stone – dead. They have no saying for a silent head for they have never encountered such a thing. More »

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southall … a little india

0 Commentsby   |  02.01.10  |  Weblog, adventures, Weblog

Southall appears in the midst of suburban west London like a babbling oasis of spicy colour. Known as ‘Little India’ the district is the Indian capital of the UK, and lately hosts coach-loads of European tourists officially sightseeing the bustle. The first South Asians arrived here in the early fifties, believing that close to London is close to riches. Work was plentiful at the new Heathrow Airport and in the local factories. The community grew. By the seventies, most of the big high street names had left and the largely Punjabi 2nd generation had moved into business, providing the growing populace with all things Indian. Today around 60% of the population is of Asian heritage. The counter colonisation is thorough and for all its religious mix, it is quietly settled.
Many of the locals have never seen India though they clearly respect and maintain their cultural, business and culinary roots. People bargain here. They talk to each other; a lot and quickly. The Broadway is swathed in every colour of sari, shop windows glisten with intricate, bright gold jewellery that seems to have been spun by insects and everywhere is the tantalising aroma of jalebi, saffron and mystery. Here you can take in a Bollywood film at the luxurious Himalaya Palace then nip down to the gaudy Glassy Junction pub for a pint of draught Cobra and a real curry before settling up in rupees.
‘Everyone comes to Southall on a mission,’ explains Biljinder, the man behind Rita’s, a smart café attracting diners from all walks of life with its authentic Punjabi menu. ‘The market and streets are choc-a-bloc on a Bank Holiday weekend. We take for granted that we can get a salwar kameez (traditional dress) across the road but people travel hundreds of miles for these things.’ Shopping in Little India is a bespoke wonder. While you wait a tailor will nip and tuck or a jeweller will personalise your purchase. Yet there is no hard-sell; incongruous as it is vital, if this is a satellite of Mother India, it is without the constant hassle … and the monsoons.

Biljinder and his father, Kundan (both chefs) are there for ‘when the stomach rumbles.’ They specialise in Chaats; essentially street food, made in-house and daily with prime ingredients including homemade paneer (cheese) and garden fresh spices. Rita’s gets through half a tonne of potatoes each week, testament to the irresistibility of Alu Tikka Chaat – two potato cutlets with chickpeas, tamarind sauce and yoghurt — at under three quid. ‘This is raw Indian, not English Indian food,’ warns Biljinder, and he’s right, the two are continents apart. Here in sunny Southall are the untamed, raucous flavours of hot and tropical India, no cream to soften the bite. ‘And we rarely eat poppadoms,’ he sighs. More »

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jewish manchester

2 Commentsby   |  12.19.09  |  Weblog, adventures

_JWH0851The sun shines down on North Manchester’s small, well-established Jewish community, just a stone’s throw from Victoria Station, a couple of miles north of  the vibrant city centre. In a story that has parallels across Europe, the UK and The United States, this ‘quarter’ grew from its proximity to the railway station; emigrants fleeing poverty and persecution over the last century headed West, and settled where they arrived.

The proud black Homburgs of the Orthodox Jews on Leicester Road speak of another era. Outside Brackman’s Bakery, the place to meet and exchange news over a smoked salmon bagel for the last 84 years, they mingle amongst the constant flurry of activity. In the array of Orthodox to more liberal eateries between here and Kings Road (the two main streets that form the heart of the enclave), I have the thrilling sense of being an outsider in a strange land. There are signs in Hebrew, and subtler signs in the people. Many women wear wigs to hide their real hair. Under the kippah, (skullcap) young boys sport sparse, dangling ringlets in deference to a biblical injunction not to shave the corners of the head. Besuited men display tzissit (stringlets), hanging from ‘any four cornered garment’ to keep the wearer ‘on the straight and narrow.’ These are the clues to a people living by the Talmud’s dictate, following a 5000 year old religion that has honoured and kept its roots wherever it has found itself. More »

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