By Kathy Martin…
Written October 2014
I was intrigued and somewhat confused by a photograph and an article in the UK newspaper “Daily Mail” of Tuesday, 14th October 2014.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron posed for a photograph with a group of local Morris dancers, who had (following centuries old tradition), “blacked up” by smearing their faces with a soot-like substance.
Should any readers be unfamiliar with the term “Morris” dancers, it is generally accepted that “Morris” is a derivative of “Moorish”, which was the nationality of a nation of Arab Berbers who swept through Northern Africa and the Iberian Peninsula during the 14th and 15th centuries.
When they crossed the Mediterranean at its narrowest point, their leader was a man called Tariq. The Arabic word for “rock” is “djerba”, which caused the Moors to name the geological feature “Djerbal Tariq”.
This feature is what we now call the (Rock of) Gibraltar! Because the Moors came from Africa, although, like modern-day Arabs, they were “brown”, Moors were perceived in folklore as “black” people, as in Shakespeare’s play – “Othello, Moor of Venice”. Thus many “Morris” dancers have, traditionally, “blacked” their faces!
OK, let’s get back to David Cameron and his heinous crime of posing with “white” people who blacked their faces. (Good heavens Caruthers, does this mean that we will have to bring back hanging?)
A prominent black playwright, Bonnie Greer has called Mr Cameron a “jerk” by posing for the picture. I accept that, whether she is black, white or somewhere in between, she is entitled to her opinion.
However, she then goes on to say that she had no problem with the Morris dancers “blacking up”, as this was traditional, but that the Prime Minister should have shown more sensitivity, especially during Black History Month (?). She continued to say that “it isn’t about the people, it’s about the stupidity and insensitivity of Cameron, this is 2014, not 1914”.
Can you understand why I am intrigued and confused?
- Firstly, a playwright, Bonnie Greer, (I thought playwrights had to be intelligent, erudite and lucid) says that a person is a jerk for posing with “blacked-up” people”.
- She then continues to say that she has no “problem” with the people who are “blacked-up”!
- So, if she doesn’t have a problem with the people with whom David Cameron posed, why does she regard him as a jerk?
- Why, if “it’s not about the people, it’s about the stupidity and insensitivity of (Mr) Cameron” where is his stupidity and insensitivity?
- Why does Bonnie Greer seem to believe that his actions would have been acceptable 100 years ago but not now?
- If any of my readers knows Bonnie Greer, please can they ask her to explain, if necessary, in words of one syllable or less, exactly what she means?
I was also interested by the mention of “Black History Month”, presuming that this is a celebration (?) that has been instigated in the UK after we left in 2006, as I had never heard of it.
I was rather surprised to discover that the concept was imported from the United States in 1987 and is intended to remember and celebrate the achievements of both present-day and historic “blacks”.
The concept of “Black History Month” began in America in 1926 when it was proposed to have an annual “Negro Awareness Week” during the second week in February, which included the birth date of Abraham Lincoln, the American President who was in power when slavery was abolished. During the 1970’s the “week” was extended to the entire month of February and the name changed from “Negro” to “Black”.
Incidentally, America has a number of “history” or “heritage” months, including
- Filipino-American (October)
- Women’s history (March)
- Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transvestite (October)
- in addition to Gay and Lesbian pride month (June)!
- America also has Irish, Jewish, Hispanic, Puerto Rican and Tibetan history or heritage “months”, but not, as far as I can make out, a “Native American (Red Indian/Redskin) month”!
Meanwhile, in South America, Brazil has just one day for “Black Awareness” – 20th November!
Have I unwittingly stumbled upon something that Black activists should be vociferously protesting about?
The United Kingdom has allocated a 31 day month (October) for “Black Awareness”, the United States (as well as Canada) only have 28 days to appreciate the achievements of the “blacks”. As for Brazil, well, should any other country want to test the accuracy of their nuclear missiles, what better target? Surely the discrepancies in these time scales call for questions to be asked in the United Nations?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that all nationalities, sects, creeds and religions should have special or ceremonial occasions. Many, such as the American Independence Day (4th July) and the Christian Christmas and Easter that celebrate the birth and death of the founder (Jesus Christ) are intrinsic to the history or beliefs of the relevant country or organisation.
But to have a whole month (whether 31 or only 28 days), “come on, get real”, as I think the modern phraseology goes!
I notice on “Black History (UK) Months” website that Nelson Mandela has been lionised.
As it is obvious that the organisation has no objection to set black murderers up on a pedestal, I find it strange that the (black) Hutu leaders of parliament and the police as well as the army in Rwanda in the 1990’s, who were responsible for the genocide of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 (also black) Tutsis, aren’t mentioned!
Funny old world isn’t it?!
Written November 2014
A few days ago, preparing for a social evening with friends I opened, well, “tapped” I suppose, a 5 litre box of wine. This action, compounded with a recent viewing of Simon Reeve’s travelogue about Australia, set my little brain into contemplation mode about how my, and, I presume other peoples, attitude to wine has changed over the recent decades.
“When I were a lad” in Rhodesia, bars and shops were stocked mainly with beers and spirits, but very few wines, despite neighbouring South Africa being a major wine producer.
Wine “buffs” (or “snobs” in real speak) insisted that wine was only stored and sold in bottles with “quercus suber” (cork oak) stoppers, and, after opening, allowed to “breathe” for exactly 2 hours 37 minutes and 11 seconds before it was suitable to be sipped!
Now, while that technique may well have suited (say) a vintage 1947 Pol Roger de-Nuits- Saint- Georges or whatever, perfectly palatable wines are now being sold in bottles that are screw or plastic capped as well as, SHOCK, HORROR, in boxes!
Good heavens Caruthers, we will definitely have to bring back hanging!
I don’t know who dreamt up the idea of “boxing”, rather than “bottling” wines, but what a marvellous concept for a vineyard capable of mass production!
- Firstly, transporting a number of symmetrical rectangular boxes in a symmetrical container, such as a lorry or container ship means that there is none of the “wasted” space that would exist if bottles with necks were being transported.
- Secondly, customer convenience, a 5 litre box of wine weighs far less than 5 litre bottles of wine and is far less liable to break if dropped!
Incidentally, wine-making is an ancient art. Within the book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Holy bible, Noah is recorded as the first vintner!
After the “Great Flood” had receded, Noah became a farmer and (presumably as well as other crops) planted a vineyard. OK, the bible states that he became drunk on his product and therefore fell into sleep during the afternoon (thereby inventing the Spanish “siesta”?), but no doubt he enjoyed it!
Anyway, back to wine, or rather the production of it. The travelogue presenter, Simon Reeve, visited a wine-growing area in southern Australia.
One (and only one) of the many major wine producers stated that he produced between 20-25 million bottles of wine each year.
Great, super, fantastic!
However, he admitted that during a twelve-month period he irrigated his vines with “millions” of gallons of water, the equivalent of 60-70 centimetres (that is 2 feet or more for readers who still use “old” measures) of rainfall!
Some of this water may seep back to the water table, but how long will the irrigation systems in this rain-challenged (my wording to describe an arid, semi-desert region for the politically correct!) area of Australia be viable?
By this I mean that every bottle of wine that is exported away from an area such as the Murray‑Darling rivers catchment area means that a bottle worth of “water/wine” isn’t returned to the local water table of that area by natural processes after passing through the digestive systems of human beings!
However, despite being a bit of an eco-warrior, I don’t want the exportation of affordable and palatable wines into my favourite supermarket to be stopped!
While on the subject of affordable and palatable wine, some years ago, our daughter Sasha and son-in-law Jon carried out a rather lengthy and in-depth survey and analysis of affordable wines that were available in the Cardiff (Wales) area. They found out that, in the vast majority of cases, a £5 bottle of wine had twice the flavour and body of wines that sold for £2.50. However, only very few of the £10 bottles of wine had twice the taste and body of the £5 ones!