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Modern reusable nappies are available in cotton, bamboo, and hemp and have more designs than the diapers of old.

When John and Suzanne were babies, disposable diapers weren’t very reliable, and I rarely used them. I chose a diaper service that delivered clean ones every week and picked up dirty ones. I not only thought cloth diapers worked better, but I thought I was doing something good for the environment. It was only later that I realized that all the hot water and bleach the diaper service used wasn’t good for the environment either. My four grandchildren all used the Pampers/ Huggies type of diaper.

In England, where they called diapers “nappies,” Tess Reidy explains at the Guardian that reusables are coming back. But the change involves doing your own washing.

“If the idea of cloth nappies conjures images of towelling squares loosely held by a large safety pin, think again. Modern versions have come a long way and are now available in bright colours and a variety of materials, including cotton, bamboo, microfibre and hemp.

“Growing consumer concern over plastic waste, and a more pragmatic desire to save money, means boom times for the reusable nappy industry.

“ ‘There is increased awareness of the impact of disposable nappies – they are a single-use plastic. It started with coffee cups, then disposable wipes, and the jump from wipes to nappies is clear,’ said Wendy Richards, director of UK online provider The Nappy Lady. She says the number of people using the service has grown by 80% in the past year. The business has doubled its staff since the start of  2018.

“About 25% of a disposable nappy is plastic and three billion nappies a year end up in landfill. Some councils in Britain now give new parents vouchers worth up to £55 [$72] to help pay for a set of reusable nappies. …

“Data from Nottinghamshire county council’s nappy project finds that using real nappies and washing them at home saves £200 a year compared with buying disposables. ‘This could help UK parents save as much as £360m a year, while helping us move towards a zero-waste society,’ said Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green party. …

“Social media platforms have also helped spread the word. Kasia Reszel has a two-month-old son, Julian. …’ We do one wash a day and it’s pretty easy. You rinse before putting on a longer cycle and wash at 60C [140F].’ …

“Upfront costs can, however, be a deterrent. With full nappy starter kits ranging from £100 to £350, some low-income parents are wary. …

“According to Charlotte Faircloth, sociology lecturer at University College London, it is often socially aware middle-class parents who have the luxury of worrying about natural styles of parenting. ‘Other people are more concerned about meeting bills,’ she said.” More at the Guardian, here.

I got curious to know whether safety pins were still used. Not necessarily! Look at the array of new fasteners here.

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Photo: BBC
An aerial performer rehearses on stage at Shakespeare’s Rose, a pop-up theater in York, England.

You’ve heard of pop-up libraries, pop-up gift stores, and pop-up restaurants. Now here comes a pop-up Shakespeare theater in York, England.

Ian Youngs writes at the BBC, “Shakespeare’s Rose, which [opened in April] and has cost £3m, is Europe’s first ‘pop-up’ Shakespearean theatre. …

“The temporary theatre has been built in a car park in 28 days to a circular design, similar to those erected on Bankside in Shakespeare’s day.

“It will stage four of his plays with a cast including [TV actor] Alexander Vlahos, who will play Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, and Catesby in Richard III.

“As well as the audience members standing in the centre, a further 660 will watch from seats on three levels around the edge.

“Shakespeare and his contemporaries would recognise the design and ‘tricks’ like trapdoors and flying, which have hardly changed over the past 400 years, according to [producer James] Cundall.

” ‘They’d find everything they had in their theatre — they just probably wouldn’t recognise [Layher] scaffolding,’ he says. ‘Each length [of scaffolding] is probably about the same size as a standard oak beam, so that’s how Shakespeare’s oak became German scaffolding. …

“There was an actual Rose theatre in London in the Bard’s time, which was recreated for the 1999 film Shakespeare in Love. …

“Professor Judith Buchanan of the University of York, who has advised on the pop-up theatre, said: ‘Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre is not a historical reconstruction of the early modern Rose playhouse on Bankside, nor of any other early modern playhouse. It is an approximate and suggestive architectural allusion to the idea of the early modern playhouse.’

“The creators of the York theatre will hope that their venue doesn’t replicate some other aspects of the original Rose — which had to be closed occasionally due to riots or the plague, and which had one cast member who killed the other in a duel.”

Read more at the BBC, here, and at the Independent, here.

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Photo: Thierry Bal
Artist Richard Woods’s cartoon-like fake bungalows, installed for Folkestone Triennial, are a commentary on the surge in second homes along the coast.

An English artist who favors cartoon-like architectural constructions has created six bungalows for a Folkestone Triennial installation called Holiday Home.

Kathryn Bromwich interviewed him for the Guardian. “Born in Chester in 1966, Richard Woods graduated from the Slade School of Art in 1990. … [For the triennial] Woods has created six colourful bungalows, situated in unexpected locations around the town.”

According to the interview, the artist is trying to reflect general concerns about who gets housing. People who can afford a second home? Immigrants from Calais across the Channel?

” ‘I was in Folkestone 18 months ago and got given this strange leaflet saying, “Have you thought about turning your property into cash?” – basically, “give up your house so someone can buy it as a second home”. The idea grew out of that: to make six identical bungalows and install some in very desirable locations, some not, but keeping it very open-ended. There’s been equal [numbers of] people coming up to me and discussing the second home issue, and immigration. …

” ‘There’s one house in the harbour, floating around – somebody heard through gossip in the town that it was going to be floated to Calais and back again. Some people are genuinely interested in whether “boat people” will move into the houses. But then lots of people in the town completely get the project.’ ”

The interviewer asks, “What can Folkestone tell us about wider trends across the country?

” ‘It’s a compressed version of the UK: all those issues that are prevalent everywhere are kind of heightened. On a clear day we can see Calais … Folkestone has very broad, different economic groups and because of its proximity to London people are moving here wanting a second home. People have asked if the homes are going to be available for local residents or just people from London.’ ”

The exhibit runs until November 5. More at the Guardian, here.

I’m sitting in my second home as I write this. There is no question that second homes in resort areas make housing extremely difficult for year-round residents. That’s one reason I support efforts to build affordable housing with subsidies, but I’m afraid it’s just a drop in the bucket.

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Photo: Sara Teresa
The rollout of a dance-based falls prevention programme in the UK by arts and health charity Aesop will see 1,000 older people benefit.

About 15 years ago, after breast cancer treatment, I joined a hospital-based class called “I Hope You’ll Dance.” I used to call it Cancer Dance Class because anyone who was being treated for cancer or had been treated could join. It happened to have only women during the time I was a participant although men were welcome.

The dance routines were very simple, but there was something pleasant about doing them with women you didn’t know but with whom you shared something as big as cancer. I also liked the music selections, which ranged from the playful “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” to numbers that were more moving, like “You Raise Me Up” and “I Pray You’ll Be All Right.”

I thought of the mysterious comfort that class provided when I read about a dance program for the elderly in England and Wales. Christy Romer described it at Arts Professional, a UK-based website.

“The rollout of a dance-based falls prevention programme by arts and health charity Aesop will see 1,000 older people benefit from a new £2.3m investment.

“The programme will run for two years from October 2017, during which time 63 interventions will take place across England in Wales. These will be delivered in collaboration with health and social care providers, and arts organisations including Yorkshire Dance and Birmingham Royal Ballet. …

“Previous Aesop research showed how the Dance to Health programmes could address a problem that costs the NHS £2.3bn a year, as the rates of completion for dance-based alternatives to NHS exercise courses are 55% higher.

“An evaluation of the Dance to Health pilot programme in February 2017 also concluded that dance artists could be trained to deliver classes which were an enjoyable artistic challenge, faithful to healthcare objectives, and would deliver measurable reductions in loneliness for participants. …

“The expanded programme will receive support from ‘Dialogue Partner’ organisations, including Age UK and NHS England, and collaborate with eight Arts Council England-funded dance organisations. …

“A formal evaluation of the programme will be conducted in 2019, ahead of an anticipated national rollout in the coming years.” More at Arts Professional, here.

Romer mentioned the effort to address loneliness through the dance classes, but I imagine that the way physical motion improves thought processes is a big piece of the health benefit. And what about improving balance? That’s a concern for me, and a reason I take both tai chi and Essentrics when I’m not on vacation.

But I’m on vacation. So I’ll sign off now and go practice standing on one foot.

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Art: Simon Roberts
Simon Roberts was the “election artist” for the 2010 general election in the United Kingdom. He chose 24 images — one for each day of the campaign — to reflect the geographical breadth of the trail
. Cornelia Parker is the election artist for 2017.

Not long ago, my husband pointed out a story about official “election artists” in England. That was a new idea for me.

An article in the Economist offers background.

“Many were bemused by the announcement on May 1st that Cornelia Parker was to be the official artist of the 2017 general election. Not as a comment on Ms Parker’s credentials — she is widely considered to be one of Britain’s most exciting contemporary artists — but to discover that such a post exists.”

Parker is the first woman chosen since the post was established in 2001 and the first conceptual artist.

“Jonathan Yeo, the inaugural artist, created a triptych oil painting of the main party leaders where the size of their portrait correlated to their portion of the vote. In 2005, David Godbold produced Hogarthian satirical illustrations on scraps of election ephemera such as manifestos, letters and flyers. In 2010 Simon Roberts photographed the quiet lanes and doorstep conversations of day-to-day campaigning …

“Ms Parker is using an Instagram account (@electionartist2017) to offer an eclectic commentary: so far she has posted pictures of road signs, homeless people and newspaper headlines. One image, captioned ‘The election contenders,’ shows a group of waving garden gnomes.

“Two further stipulations come with the role. First is that the artist must remain politically impartial. … The second is that they must produce a final work — one that can be put on display, or contain elements that can be displayed — which will eventually join the parliamentary art collection.”

I searched the web but couldn’t find Parker’s piece for the permanent collection. Maybe a reader will find it for me. It’s hard to envision what an artist known for “detonated sheds, cut-up shotguns and squashed instruments” would come up with, even if she is currently focused on instagram.

The Economist story is here, the Guardian‘s here and the New Yorker‘s here.

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Photo: British Pie Awards
One of Britain’s most traditional pies is the Melton Mowbray pork pie. It was granted protected European Union status. (Can that protection last post-Brexit? The Law of Unforeseen Consequences strikes again.)

My husband loves learning about the origins of language. He recently sent me an article about English pies and pie-related expressions.

Norman Miller at the BBC explained, “Every March, St Mary’s church in the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray becomes a cathedral of pies: it fills with tables bearing more than 800 pastries.

“Some recipes are particularly offbeat. While the quirkiest entry in this year’s Speciality Meat category was a cricket pie, one celebrated past winner was Phil Walmsley’s squirrel pie in 2014. Walmsley told me that it has medieval origins, but still sells out at Market Harborough’s twice-monthly farmers’ market. ‘They’re also a great way to deal with a pest,’ he laughs. …

“Even in their early days, pies served different purposes for the rich and poor: as show-off delicacies for the former and portable food for the latter.

“So while wealthy feasts might include pies containing anything from game birds to mussels, the less well-off used simpler pies as a way to have food while doing outdoor work or travelling – the crust both carried and preserved the tasty filling. …

“Pies have been adding rich flavour to the English language for centuries. Even Shakespeare got in on the act, writing in his 1613 play Henry VIII that ‘No man’s pie is freed from his ambitious finger’, giving English the phrase ‘a finger in every pie’. …

‘Eating humble pie’, meanwhile, comes from medieval deer hunting, when meat from a successful hunt was shared out on the basis of social status.

“While the finest cuts of venison went to the rich and powerful, the lower orders made do with the ‘nombles’: a Norman French word for deer offal. Anglicisation saw ‘nombles’ pie become ‘humble’ pie. …

“One gigantic 16th-Century royal pie concealed a gaggle of musicians who began playing when the pie was cut, while another trick saw people burst out of a pie to recite poetry. Concealing live birds was also popular – hence the ‘four and twenty blackbirds’ in the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence.”

Be sure to read about some great English pastries here, especially the traditional pie with sardines gazing up from the crust that commemorates a 17th century fisherman who saved his village from starvation.

As for squirrel pie, if Erik doesn’t find a way to keep a local squirrel from getting into the bird feeder, I fear that scalawag’s fate is sealed. Hungry, anyone?

Photo: Aubrey K. Huggins

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