[Return to related issue of Nonviolent
You probably thought I was not serious if you read in last
month's Colm the proposal to cover 100 Uses for Tofu Containers.
But I am. Well, not a hundred different use but a hundred
nevertheless, well, one use for a hundred containers really.
[What a cop out or come down - Ed] Firstly, it has not come
to our attention that some people may not know what a tofu
container is, but I'll tell you anyway It's a plastic tray,
with slightly sloping sides, measuring about 20 x 15 cms and
the sides about 5 cms height. Fresh tofu is sold in it (not
to be confused with long life cartons of tofu).
The use? Seed and indoor herb trays. Simply
take two tofu containers, pierce the bottom of one several
times with a sharp round object (as in a bradawl) to allow
for drainage, fill with potting compost and place it inside
another, whole tray. This means that if you over-water the
tray you can easily drain it off and it's easier to check
whether you have watered it enough. This size of tray I find
much more flexible for normal horticultural use in a 'normal'
household than the larger trays you get in garden centres.
And they are perfect for growing basil on a window sill right
around the year. Nothing could be simpler. And if you're looking
for some and don't have any, well I just might be able to
spare a few (dozen).....
I confess that I have reverted to peat-based
potting compost again for indoor use after trying to use peat-free
for two springs in a row. The make I was using was a reputable
brand but the results were totally rubbish - the garden centre
where I buy told me subsequently that peat-free composts had
rated very poorly in tests. I start a lot of seedlings indoors
and my seeds sprouted all right, grew a little bit, and then
sat there - the roots did get inordinately long, presumably
the plant searching for food. I don't know if the problem
is whether the milling process for the peat-free compost leaves
a very coarse mixture which leaves seedlings and plants unable
to take up any added nutrition/fertiliser. Anyhow, transferring
my weak seedlings to a peat multi-purpose mixture allowed
them to recover and grow. But I felt sad that no, I wasn't
being a good custodian of Ireland's bogland. I hope they are
able to get their peat-free compost act together soon.
I hasten to add that outside, if it's for
mulching or other purposes, I would continue to use peat-free
composts if buying any. It's for indoor growing when you need
a sterile medium for seeds that's the issue. I do compost
any plant and vegetable material that I possibly can but that
is not suitable for indoor use with all manner of wildlife
present (mainly worms, I am pleased to say).
I wrote last time about the skills of a travelling salesman.
I thought I would give you a list this time of some of the
terms beloved of advertisers [well, it is a while since we
had one of your Liszts so we can't complain too much - Ed].
Here is your handy cut-out-and-keep guide (WARNING: don't
take the scissors to your computer!) to some everyday terms
you may encounter in the privacy of your own home thanks to
advertising in the media or anywhere outside, be it billboards,
buses, shops or on anything you pick up or handle. Here is
what these terms really mean -
Natural/natural ingredients: We
have not used any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons
in the production of this product. As to whether the actual
ingredients/components, or combination of ingredients/components,
are actually safe, well, we obviously can't say because then
you wouldn't buy our product.
Original: We are either
one of the original imitators or we have been making this
product for so long (at least a few weeks) that it feels original.
It is original to us, we have produced some rubbish in our
time but never made anything quite as rubbishy as this before.
Unique: as Original except our product has special toxic qualities
no one else has been able to emulate.
Enhanced/now even better: This
product may be really rubbish now but the one you were buying
previously - it was really really rubbish. Oh, and the effect
on the environment is now enhanced, it's much worse for the
Farm: A food production
unit (factory, battery unit etc) situated vaguely in the countryside
or what was once the countryside before we spoiled it.
Fresh: It was fresh when
we produced it, it would pretty much have to be by definition,
wouldn't it, but that was a long time ago.
Biological: A cunning
term we use to confuse people with the word used in some other
languages for 'organic'. And it sounds good. In the case of
washing powder it just means it's more destructive of the
Farm Fresh: Combination of 'Farm' and 'Fresh' above.
Ingredients: What we
are legally obliged to tell you about what is in our product.
Of course this is all written in such tiny writing and obtuse
terminology ('aqua' for water) that even if you want to check
your toothpaste hasn't got poisonous Tricoslan in it, it's
going to be damned hard for you to find out. If you're that
worried, why didn't you bring your magnifying glass and your
dictionary of chemicals?
Reassuringly expensive: We're
really putting the boot into consumers with this price which
is designed to make people think it's a quality product when
in fact most of the cost is made up of advertising to make
people think it's a quality product.
Luxurious: We also export
it to Luxor in Egypt. And we are trying to get rich selling
it so we can live in luxury.
You can't do without it:
Why haven't you already bought our product, you mean, ungrateful
wretch? Buy it or we'll get you.
As seen on TV: Well, maybe
it was a shopping channel, and if it wasn't then you're still
paying a lot extra for either a) the promotion and freebies
to get it on TV, or b) the advertising.
Specially made for you: We
have made this product specially for you, as for every other
inhabitant of the known universe. We don't mind who we make
our money off.
On sale: Come and buy
more than you need so that our profits still increase.
Dermatologically tested: Dermatologically
tested, only we're not going to tell you how or what the results
are. Insofar as it was tested on humans we can guarantee that
no one whose skin it was tested on was immediately rushed
to their nearest Accident and Emergency unit. As to the longer
term effects, well, who can tell? Oh, and it may have been
tested in the eyes of rabbits.
Lifetime guarantee: The
product's lifetime, not yours. It lasts as long as it lasts.
And even if it did mean your lifetime then either a) we'll
have gone out of business way before then, or b) you'll never
find us, or c) returning the defective product to China, where
we will have relocated, will be more expensive than buying
a new one.
Optional extended warranty:
Selling the product isn't making us rich fast enough. You
can pay through the nose for 'peace of mind' when paying directly
for repair or replacement is almost certain to be a better
deal. Our insurance department is adding to our profits.
Our no nonsense approach: We
won't stand for any nonsense. So buy now or get lost.
Buy now while stocks last:
We can't give it away, we're getting desperate.
Special opening offer:
You're certainly not going to want to buy this without a specially
New packaging: Even less
inside for your money.
Quality at a price you can afford:
Rubbish at a price you can't afford.
Been listening to the double CD album "Where Have
All The Flowers Gone - The Songs of Pete Seeger" (Appleseed,
1998), songs written by or associated with Pete Seeger and
sung by a wide variety of artists. It begins with the title
track sung by Tommy Sands with Dolores Keane and Vedran Smailovic
- a brilliant version a number of you locally and elsewhere
may be familiar with. It's all a collection of songs from
one of the twentieth century's best English-language singer
songwriters. Obviously with a collection like this you'll
like some more than others as there are a wide variety of
styles within a broadly folk idiom, apart from the variety
of content in the lyrics.
But there is one song I wanted to talk
about here - 'My name is Lisa Kalvelage', a very powerful
song from the time of the Vietnam war, performed by Ani Difranco,
and based on events from 1965. Lisa Kalvelage speaks in the
song, as she did in court at the time, about an action which
she and two other women took in blocking a shipment of napalm
going to Vietnam to horrifically burn the people there. She
had been born in Nuremberg (Germany, as in Trials) and was
a girl, 'at most a teenager in the years Hitler ruled our
As a potential G.I. bride sometime after
the war, she was interviewed by a US consular official before
being permitted to join her potential husband in the States.
Initially she was refused permission to emigrate because the
official wasn't convinced that she had learnt her lessons
about responsibility for the things which had been done by
the Nazi state. Eventually she was allowed to go to the US.
But all this had forced her to think, and to accept responsibility.
In the States she was frequently asked about her involvement
in Nazi era Germany, and where were her mother and father
at the time. Being accused of mass guilt once was enough in
one lifetime, when there were crimes that she could see and
know, so she took action. She couldn't take it a second time,
which is why she ended up in the dock. Her children would
not need to be silent when asked "Where was your mother
This is all a very powerful statement and
a reminder that liberators can become oppressors and, at a
personal level, the power of human responses to violence.
Lisa Kalvelage herself is now elderly and
lives in California. Although I like the song very much, some
of the words/lyrics are difficult to get in Ani Difranco's
version but they are available in writing if you do a web
Some Christians have the concept of 'the elect', those saved
souls who are destined or predestined to eternal salvation.
Another group of 'the elect' are those who were elected in
both the recent elections for the Westminster Parliament and
local councils in Norn Iron. For some successful candidates
who expressed immediate thanks to the deity for their election,
the two concepts seemed to fuse together, as in the elect
getting elected. But presumably not everyone who considered
themselves a member of the elect got elected. So perhaps you
could say only the select elect got elected. [Stop it - Ed].
But then some gave a thank-the-returning-officer-and-knife-your-opponents
lecture as their victory speech which you might say was a
lecture from the select elect elected.
With some exceptions the main interest
in Norn Iron elections is who fares how within each 'side'.
Occasionally someone sneaks a fast one, so to speak, as in
Alisdair McDonnell becoming an SDLP gain at Westminster for
South Belfast, coming up on the back rail with the unionist
vote split between DUP and UUP candidates (each of whom declared
they were the only unionist who could hold the seat for unionism.....).
Living in the electoral ward which includes Short Strand in
Belfast it was going to be particularly interesting to see
what happened to the Sinn Féin vote there in the light
of the McCartney murder, and in the event it was lost with
Alliance picking up a local seat. But what was fascinating
at this very local level was that our house only received
canvassers twice at its doors - and both were from Sinn Féin
in what is basically a mixed middle class part of the area;
they were working desperately hard to retain the seat but
it didn't work.
Alliance complained bitterly about dirty
tricks in some areas with leaflets in Alliance colours calling
on people to 'lend' their votes to the UUP (said leaflets
were linked to printers who do UUP printing). One place where
Alliance voters did 'lend their votes' in some numbers was
North Down where they helped Sylvia Hermon to retain the one
Westminister UUP seat. The Alliance candidate in the area,
David Alderdice, even humorously thanked Alliance voters after
the count, "some of whom even voted for me" he said.
At times in the lead up to the election
it looked like the UUP was so desperate it was trying to outdo
the DUP with statements and leaflets which could be inflammatory.
And one aspect that probably backfired was its widespread
poster indicating that "Decent People Vote.....Ulster
Unionist Party". Well, undoubtedly some decent people
do but the use of the term 'decent' raises questions as to
whether all decent people vote UUP and if you don't vote UUP
you're indecent or not decent or some such. It rightly got
a bit of an outcry from unionists of different shades, decent
people that they are.
There weren't a lot of silver linings in
all this. One was perhaps the election of 3 Green Party councillors.
And the non-sectarian middle-of-the-road (where people get
knocked over) Alliance Party held up quite well at local level
but at 5% overall it can only have a significant role in some
places. However the link between religious-cultural identity
and political allegiance is at least as strong as ever. C'est
la vie-sign, as they say. When those two sides are going to
deal remains to be seen but bets should be in years rather
than weeks or months. However expecting the unexpected should
always be a rule of thumb for Norn Iron.
- - - -
Well, summer is a-coming in, I'm
pleased to say only another month or so to the Twelfth when
Norn Iron shuts up shop and the pace gets easier, the Republic
takes a bit longer to slow down. If it's long and hot I hope
that's the weather and not the politics and violence. And
if you're involved in debt protests and/or the G8-related
gatherings in Edinburgh or Gleneagles, have a Gr8 time [I
already used that pun - Ed]. Anyway, I'll see you again at
the start of July, aye, so until then, yours, Billy.
Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman
pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little
about horses even if someone with a similar name is
found astride them on gable ends around certain parts
of Norn Iron).