Wednesday, 26 November 2014


My son has been rehearsing hard for weeks to perform as part of the Shakespeare schools festival. Simultaneously over last week there were 1,000 schools performing and we watched just 4 of these in one evening. Each school had their own take on a different Shakespeare play and they were brilliant!

The lady sitting next to me watched the whole week's worth at the Curve in Leicester, and had been very impressed. As she pointed out, "Shakespeare is like speaking another language." Yet there were primary school children confidently delivering their lines for The Tempest, and conveying the meaning well enough for those unfamiliar with the play to be able to follow. My youngest daughter was so confused -"I can't understand what they are saying", but she still picked up the storylines conveyed by the acting.

One of the schools performing was an international school, so for them it was like speaking a different language, in a foreign language. They did spectacularly and even though none of their parents were in the audience it seemed like they received the loudest applause. These were young teenagers, and you could see they were glowing with the appreciation.

Did I mention they were Russian? It clearly made not the slightest difference to any one of the people in that theatre, other than to impress them at their language ability. Why should it? We are not in another Cold War, even though those words have been rattling around the news recently. It feels like there is an attempt to re-ignite old memories and old fears. But that adversary, the Soviet Union, no longer exists. Does anyone really feel under threat from Russia?

Let me tell you a little more about the play that they performed. It was Othello, and a very brief synopsis is that Iago tricked Othello into believing that the woman he loved, Desdemona, had been having an affair with Cassio. Iago did this by deception and lies, making innocent conversations appear to mean something else, planting false evidence and trying to silence anyone who could reveal the truth. Orthello believed the lies and tormented by jealousy, murdered Desdemona, the woman he loved. In case you haven't is a tragedy. Though not quite as tragic as King Lear, which seemed as if most of the cast ended up dead!

This plot may be written over 400 hundred years ago, but the same lies, deception and false meanings are still in use to blind and mis-direct us. For instance, why are protesters in Hong Kong called "pro-democracy protesters" in the press, yet in Ukraine the people standing against the current government are called "pro-Russian separatists". (It is such a mouthful that it could easily be shortened from "pro-Russian separatists" to just "Russians".) Were the Scottish Yes supporters labelled "pro-Scandinavian separatists"? How ridiculous does that sound? Yet they were voting to be independent of British rule, just as the people of Donetsk have voted to be independent of Ukraine. The difference of course being that Scottish independence was out-voted, whereas Donetsk had a clear majority for independence. Plus the Scottish vote is considered legitimate and for some reason the Donetsk vote isn't. What is Democracy if it isn't about giving the people a vote and a voice?

If the majority of people living in Donetsk don't want to be part of Ukraine, how would you try to change their minds? Attacking them until they abandon their homes and become refugees can't be the only option.

I am not saying that I can unscramble the truth from the lies, but I do like to hear the story from all sides. This BBC interview by John Simpson of Dmitry Peskov, Putin's chief spokesperson, seems to give a glimpse of the other side of the story. I found Dmitry Peskov quite compelling. He really can't believe that John Simpson thinks that there are Russian troops in Ukraine. (Here is another interesting snippet from John Simpson from the same event)

There does seem to be a lot of accusations flying with little solid definitive evidence to back it up. Dmitry Orlov wrote in his post 'How can you tell whether Russia has invaded Ukraine?' describing what a Russian invasion would actually look like.

"....the Russians operate in battalions of 400 men and dozens of armored vehicles, followed by convoys of support vehicles (tanker trucks, communications, field kitchens, field hospitals and so on). The flow of vehicles in and out is non-stop, plainly visible on air reconnaissance and satellite photos....."

That clearly isn't happening, but at the same time how can Russia stay neutral about what is happening on their border? With most countries in the region reliant on Russian gas to see them through the winter, the picture of an isolated Russia backed into a corner doesn't ring true either. It may be the reality of energy supplies that brings the situation to a head - a cold Cold War you might say ;-)

And maybe in true Shakespearian fashion the truth will be unveiled as the tragedy ends.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Low Energy Event

I have been baking today, lots of lovely cakes for the Transition Energy Event tomorrow. Below are my delicious cookies and Nigella's famous clementine cake from the 'Green & Blacks Chocolate Recipes' book. It hadn't occurred to me before, but the clementine cake is gluten free, so must be totally healthy despite being coated in Green & Blacks chocolate ;-) I have also made a carrot cake and Mrs Thrifts Chocolate Courgette Traybake, although I was low on some ingredients by then so there was a bit of substitution involved.

If you are near Loughborough and don't have any plans for Saturday afternoon, why don't you drop in to the Transition Loughborough Energy Event at St Peters Community Centre. There will be free homemade cakes and refreshments! If that isn't enough to entice you, there will be advice on how to save energy without spending money, and also examples of some low cost solutions. With talks from Dr Tina Holt the super-insulated refurbishment guru, and Caroline Harmon local expert on energy efficiency measures and grants there is bound to be something of interest for everyone. This informal event is open from 1 - 4pm, so if there is anything you want to ask about energy bills, draught-proofing, grants, solar panels or insulation then come along for a chat and some cake :-)