Archive for March, 2012

Slow fashion

March 31, 2012
slow fashion pledge

slow fashion pledge

Slow fashion is not a seasonal trend that comes and goes like animal print, but a sustainable fashion movement that is gaining momentum. — Jessica Bourland

Fast fashion is greed.

Fast fashion is exploitation.

Fast fashion is sweatshop factories, one factory pitted against another factory, one country pitted against another country.

Fast fashion externalises costs, destroys the environment.

Fast fashion is global corporations brainwashing sheep-like individuals that they must all look the same, dress the same, think the same.

Fast fashion is disposable clothes, wardrobes that must be emptied and replenished every four months.

Fast fashion, cheap clothes, clothes that are too cheap to repair, too cheap even to launder, come with a very high price tag.

Slow fashion is style.

Slow fashion is clothes we look good in.

Slow fashion is small artisan designers and dressmakers, who use natural materials.

Slow fashion is organic.

Slow fashion is Fair Trade

Slow fashion is taking unwanted clothes to charity shops to be recycled, buying clothes from charity shops.

Slow fashion is worth caring about, worth repairing, worth laundering.

Slow fashion treads lightly on the planet.

Slow fashion is sustainable.

‘Slow fashion’ was coined by Kate Fletcher. It has evolved from slow food, is part of the slow movement.

In The Winner Stands Alone, Paulo Coelho has a brilliant critique of fast fashion.

It is all about image, be it wearing the latest fashion or consuming a can of coke. We think we are in control of our own destiny, but we are not, we are being manipulated by con men.

Fashion. Whatever can people be thinking? Do they think fashion is something that changes according to the season of the year? Did they really come from all corners of the world to show off their dresses, their jewellery and their collection of shoes? They don’t understand. ‘Fashion’ is merely a way of saying: ‘I belong to your world. I’m wearing the same uniform as your army, so don’t shoot.’

Ever since groups of men and women first started living together in caves, fashion has been the only language everyone can understand, even complete strangers. ‘We dress in the same way. I belong to your tribe. Let’s gang up on the weaklings as a way of surviving.’

But some people believe that ‘fashion’ is everything. Every six months, they spend a fortune changing some tiny detail in order to keep up their membership of the very exclusive tribe of the rich. If they were to visit Silicon Valley, where the billionaires of the IT industry wear plastic watches and beat-up jeans, they would understand that the world has changed; everyone now seems to belong to the same social class; no one cares any more about the size of a diamond or the make of a tie or a leather briefcase. In fact, ties and leather briefcases don’t even exist in that part of the world; nearby, however, is Hollywood, a relatively more powerful machine – albeit in decline – which still manages to convince the innocent to believe in haute-couture dresses, emerald necklaces and stretch limos. And since this is what still appears in all the magazines, who would dare destroy a billion-dollar industry involving advertisements, the sale of useless objects, the invention of entirely unnecessary new trends, and the creation of identical face creams all bearing different labels?

How perverse! Just when everything seems to be in order and as families gather round the table to have supper, the phantom of the Superclass appears, selling impossible dreams: luxury, beauty, power. And the family falls apart.

The father works overtime to be able to buy his son the latest trainers because if his son doesn’t have a pair, he’ll be ostracised at school. The wife weeps in silence because her friends have designer clothes and she has no money. Their adolescent children, instead of learning the real values of faith and hope, dream only of becoming singers or movie stars. Girls in provincial towns lose any real sense of themselves and start to think of going to the big city, prepared to do anything, absolutely anything, to get a particular piece of jewellery. A world that should be directed towards justice begins instead to focus on material things, which, in six months’ time, will be worthless and have to be replaced, and that is how the whole circus ensures that the despicable creatures gathered together in Cannes remain at the top of the heap.

What are people buying into, what are they paying a high price for? It is not the designer on the label as the design will have been by a young designer who wants out to set up his own label. It will have not even have been made by the company, it will have come from some Third World sweatshop, a dollar or less at the factory gate, one hundred dollars or more retail. All that people are paying for is the label, the brand name.

Not to be confused with buying real luxury, quality, for example a Montegrappa pen made by craftsmen, for when we buy something of quality, we tend to cherish it and keep it for life.

Top Story in Lemondade (Sunday 1 April 2010).

Montegrappa launch The Alchemist pen
Disposable clothes
Killer Jeans
What is Slow Fashion?
Slow fashion
‘Slow fashion’ is a must-have … and not just for this season
Slow it Down: Fast Fashion vs. Slow Fashion
Perfect Purses
The Story of Stuff

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Ristorante Alla Corte

March 31, 2012
Ristorante Alla Corte

Ristorante Alla Corte

shellfish and spaghetti

shellfish and spaghetti

Mio expert with spaghetti

Mio expert with spaghetti

I had intended eating out, but there was nowhere nearby, Bassano del Grappa was half an hour walk away in the dark, and so I ate at Ristorante Alla Corte.

Not that I am complaining, as the food was excellent, and as I was to later discover, there is nowhere worth eating in Bassano del Grappa.

Many places claim to be gourmet restaurants, but few live up to the claim. Were Ristorante Alla Corte to make the claim (it actually does not), it would be well deserved as the food and service excellent.

Wherever possible, the ingredients are sourced locally.

Ristorante Alla Corte is popular with locals, which is always a good sign. Regulars were greeted as old friends.

The locals or regulars seemed to eat off menu. On my first night, a table of ten was served a leg of roast pork. I inquired and was told it had been slow roasted for ten hours.

I was then asked would I like to try.

I said yes, and was served a couple of slices of the roast pork with small, diced roast potatoes. It was excellent.

Roberto and his chef clearly took a great pride in what they served, and were very happy to sit and talk about the food if you showed an interest and they were not too busy.

One evening Roberto showed me two photo albums of cultural events where food was served, one location being the Villa Bianchi.

I was very much reminded of Nicolas Tavern in Protoras in Cyprus where Nicolas takes a great pride in the food served.

One night Roberto told me he had something special. I assumed he was going to tell me of a special dish and ask would I like to try. But no, Monetegrappa had booked a table for ten and had as their guest of honour Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho.

A great honour indeed for Roberto and Ristorante Alla Corte.

On the evening everyone was spruced up, but sadly it never happened. One hour before they were due to dine, Montegrappa called to cancel, Paulo Coelho’s flight had been delayed and he would not make it in time for dinner.

I ate there every night, not Monday as it was closed. Monday night I ate at a medieval Venetian castle at a St Joseph’s Day party, guest of Paulo Coelho.

My last night I did not enjoy. Roberto was absent and I do not think the chef was there either. The service was not as good and I did not enjoy my meal (though it may have been because I was not feeling well). My Japanese friends said their meal was good, shellfish with spaghetti. I barely touched mine. I emptied my plate onto Mio’s plate, she ate it and said it was good.

On my first night I was treated by Roberto to a glass of grappa, from Poli, a local speciality. I did not like it, and spent the rest of the night politely sipping.

Slow Food, as an alternative to fast food, was founded in Italy by Carlo Petrini in 1986.

Slow Food has expanded to become the all embracing Slow Movement, which includes Slow Money, Cittaslow, Slow fashion, Slow music.

Slow Movement embraces local, seasonal food, local culture, local seed varieties.

Although not part of the Slow Movement, what Roberto and his colleagues were doing was something similar, cultural events that celebrated local food, local customs.

Sadly we did not see Roberto to say goodbye. He was in Brussels helping to prepare a Gala dinner for over 700 MEPs!

Paulo Coelho talking on Aleph

March 31, 2012

Aleph is the story of loss of faith, of rediscovering that faith on a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Aleph is now available in paperback in UK, in US in June.

Paulo Coelho: How I Write
Paulo Coelho on writing I (followed by parts II, II & IV)

Grappa

March 30, 2012
glass of grappa

glass of grappa

Grappa is distilled from grapes.

The area for grappa is Bassano del Grappa.

Bassano del Grappa has two distilleries.

One, Poli, is over the bridge and up the hill. It faces as one comes off the old wooden bridge.

Poli distils from two grape varieties, Merlot and Pinot. The basic ingredient is the mush or pomace left over from making wine.

Grappa is usually served as a digestivo or after-dinner drink. It is served in a specially shaped glass.

I had my first taste of grappa on my first night in Bassano del Grappa, when I ate at Ristorante Alla Corte and after dinner Roberto poured me a glass. I then spent the rest of the night politely sipping.

I liked it not.

Grappa has protected status. It may only be produced in Italy, or in the Italian part of Switzerland, or in San Marino. It may only be made from pomace, not grape juice. There can be no added water.

A contemporary cultural reference to grappa can be found in The Fire, the sequel to The Eight.

Synchronicity: I was given The Fire whilst I was in Bassano del Grappa.

Aleph now out in paperback!

March 30, 2012
Aleph and The Alchemist joint No 7 (in non fiction chart)

Aleph and The Alchemist joint No 7 (in non fiction chart)

Wonderful display of Paulo Coelho books in window of Libreria Palazzo Roberti

Wonderful display of Paulo Coelho books in window of Libreria Palazzo Roberti

HarperCollins have produced a rather tacky video to promote that Aleph is now available in paperback.

This appalling New-Age-light video from HarperCollins merely serves to reinforce the worse prejudices from critics that Paulo Coelho is a pedlar of psycho-babble and pseudo-crap.

In many ways it is much worse than the critics. At least with the vicious personal attacks by critics masquerading as book reviews, the intelligent reader can see there is something wrong, wrong that is with the critic not the books or author.

Had I never read Paulo Coelho, this awful video would have put me off Paulo Coelho for life, or at the very least it would have taken a lot of persuading for me to have picked up and read one of his books.

I learnt Aleph was out in paperback on passing through an airport and finding it on display on a book stand. It was joint No 7 with The Alchemist. Odd though, I thought, in the non-fiction chart.

The Alchemist has a new cover. This I discovered on meeting and chatting with a man who like me was in transit between terminal buildings and waiting for the shuttle. Strangers passing by in brief encounters.

Reading the signs

Was Aleph on display in Waterstone’s?

Friday of last week, I checked Waterstone’s in Guildford. No, Aleph was not on display. It was not on display in the window, not on display in-store. At least it was on display on the shelves after I passed through.

Same story, Waterstone’s in Lincoln, Tuesday of this week. No Aleph on display.

What is wrong with Waterstone’s?

Last year when Aleph came out in hardback, it was not on display in Waterstone’s

Paulo Coelho in Waterstone’s and the author the publisher forgot

If nothing else an opportunity for independent bookshops. But will they grasp the opportunity? On past track record, the sad reality is no, which is one reason they are all going out of business.

What’s gone wrong with our bookshops?

Last year Aleph was released across Europe. It shot straight to No 1 in all countries apart from UK.

Waterstone’s is a very depressing place to visit. A marked contrast to the four bookshops I found happily coexisting in Bassano del Grappa.

Bookshops in Bassano del Grappa

One, Libreria Palazzo Roberti, located in a former palace that was once owned by the Comte Roberti where Napoleon slept the night, was a delight to visit. As one wandered around one could see the love of books. Wonderful enticing book displays.

I mentioned Paulo Coelho was in Bassano del Grappa. When I passed by a couple of days later, Libreria Plazzo Roberti had a wonderful display of Paulo Coelho books in one of their windows. Somehow I cannot imagine that happening with Waterstone’s.

Guildford has an annual book festival which takes place mid-October. Pass by Waterstone’s and you would not know, as no mention of the Guildford Book Festival. Sour grapes because they are not the official festival bookseller.

But please do not let the tacky HarperCollins video put you off reading Aleph. It is excellent and highly recommended.

Aleph is available in paperback the UK now, in the US in June.

Chicken Shack – Spoonful (Live 2004)

March 30, 2012

Chicken Shack are mid-1960s Cream era.

Here with classic Cream number Spoonful.

Villa Bianchi

March 29, 2012
Villa Bianchi - Bassano del Grappa

Villa Bianchi - Bassano del Grappa

You do not expect to wake up the morning, look outside of your bathroom window and find across the road an Italian villa, a Palladian villa.

I knew it was big, but it was not until later in the day when I walked into Bassano del Grappa after a three-hour walk along the river in the morning, I appreciated how big, or how splendid. My view earlier from my bathroom window was end on.

What I was looking at was a 16th Italian villa designed by the Venetian architect Andrea della Gondola detto il Palladio.

Andrea della Gondola detto il Palladio was a Renaissance man. He reintroduced the Roman villa. And that is what I found I was looking at, a Roman villa, collonaded structures, a pond, massive gates, sculptures. Off to one side, forming a wing, a long block, probably once servant quarters, was now lived in.

This block formed one side of a farmyard, which we learnt talking to a local man on our last day, housed a winery.

What must have once been the extensive grounds for the house, now vineyards.

The villa is now boarded up, though Roberto, owner of Hotel Alla Corte, told me it was used a couple of times a year for grand cultural events (and showed me an album of pictures of one such event) and said during a visit to Italy, Queen Elizabeth II of England stayed at the villa.

Andrea della Gondola detto il Palladio (1508-1580) got the name Palladio from Pallas Athene, patron of Athena. He was influenced by Vitruvius Pollio, a first century Roman architect whose books, The Ten Books of Architecture, had recently been rediscovered.

Andrea della Gondola detto il Palladio wrote Quattro Libri dell’Architettura, four books on the principles of architecture.

Andrea della Gondola detto il Palladio influenced Thomas Jefferson, who in turn had an influence on the design and layout of Washington DC, in particular the Capitol building.

In modern literature, Andrea della Gondola detto il Palladio makes an appearance in The Fire, the sequel to The Eight.

Synchronicity: I was in Bassano del Grappa for the launch of The Alchemist pen by Montegrappa and for a St Josepeph’s Day party. Alchemy is key to The Fire. I was given as a present The Fire at the St Joseph’s Day party.

A celebration of Holy Week at St Mark’s by the children

March 29, 2012
A cross of nails

A cross of nails

a single candle lit for friends

a single candle lit for friends

I have been to St Mark’s Church at Christmas when the children of St Mark’s Primary school run the service. I have been very, very impressed.

Children’s Carol Concert at St Mark’s

What would it be like when they run the service for Easter?

This evening I found out. I was very, very impressed. Not only was I impressed, but I found it deeply moving.

On entering the church I found musical chairs was still in play, only the people do not move the pews move.

Following a brief welcome by the Rector Rev Ian Hedges, the children took over and ran the service for a little over half an hour.

We had a group of players, actors or performers, call them what you will. They were all dressed the same, in oversize creamy yellow t-shirts, several, like prisoners, had stamped on the back who they were, for example Jesus, disciple, soldier etc, and black shorts. They were told they could go home as they were dressed, they did not need to change, but please if you do, remember to take home the clothes you arrived in.

Another smaller group of children narrated the scene, using what I assume were taken directly from or adaptation of the Gospels.

Another much larger group of children sang.

As the children narrated, the players performed mime.

The story was told from the Last Supper through to betrayal, trial, beating, execution and burial in a tomb.

It was incredible to watch. Well deserving of putting on as a stage performance.

At the end, thanks from Ian to the children and an excellent summing up.

Ian held a wooden cross. Said how they had been hammering in nails. The play deliberately ended at a low, Jesus being executed on a cross, carried off to a tomb.

Seeing the cross of nails, I thought of the medieval cross of nails from Coventry Cathedral that Canon Andrew White wears and the good work he does in Iraq and the Middle East.

The children were year 3/4, which meant absolutely nothing to me. I asked. They were aged seven to nine years old. The school groups the children together spanning two academic years.

I lit a single candle for my friends Mio, Paulo, Andrew and several others. I seemd to have started a trend as several of the children then lit candles.

I only wish my lovely Japanese friend Mio (a kindergarten teacher) could have been there, as she would have loved it.

Ash Wednesday
Reflection on The Nail at St Mark’s
Mary’s thoughts on her way to Calvary

Raquel Rodriguez

March 29, 2012
Raquel Rodriguez

Raquel Rodriguez

Excellent Jazz album, but an insult to Raquel Rodriguez to compare with Amy Winehouse.

Chicken Shack – I’d Rather Go Blind (Live 2004)

March 28, 2012

It does not get much better than this, Chicken Shack performing I’d Rather Go Blind live.