Creating LOTS!

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Creating LOTS!

I’ve been a bit quiet for the last month or so because of off-line commitments.  For the last few months I have been working with some friends towards the E17 Art Trail, a community art fair held in East London, where locals (be they individuals, businesses, schools or places of workship) can open create art and open their doors as galleries for a fortnight.  The E17 Art Trail is held in Walthamstow and this year was it’s eleventh anniversary.  This was the first year we’d held an event of our our.  I did it with a group of four friends, including the talented Alexis Nethercleft of Stow Photo.   We’ve visited the trail several times since a number of my friends have moved out of the borough we grew up in to artsy E17.  Although none of us has any formal experience of making and showcasing art – we worked out the most qualified member of the group won this title with a GCSE in art – we were persuaded by a number of enthusiastic people last year to join in the future.  The theme of the trail this year was announced in February as ‘Storytelling’.   To me, the most evocative images on this theme come from the old Fairy Tales.   As the art trail is very much a community event, I thought it would be fun to recreate some of these images and stories in nearby settings.  With one friend who has been building his photography skills and some more who were willing to help me make and wear props, ‘Fairy tale folk in E17’ was born!

The Frog Prince

The Frog Prince

It was great fun creating the objects and collecting the props and also going for the photo shoots – even the ones that took place at dawn!  Playing ‘gallery’ was also fun.   We turned my friend Jane’s (aka Red Riding Hood) flat into a gallery space across three weekends.  Armed with fruit juice, biscuits and a little spiel about our work, we invited friends, family and strangers into our ‘space’.  There were a few oddballs (although less than I had expected, given that we were open to absolutely anyone) but generally people were friendly and fun.  We also decided to sell the prints, with all profits going to the DEC Nepal Earthquake appeal – which we managed to raise nearly £200 for!

Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood

I’d recommend taking part in this project or similar to anyone.  If you don’t happen to live somewhere where projects like this one already exist, why not try starting something yourself.  We had so much fun this year that not only are we planning our next year’s project, but have also talked about holding one or two ‘gallery evenings’ in the interval.

Golden Egg.

Golden Egg.

A selection of the images from the trail can be found at www.stowphoto.co.uk, along with some extra ones we didn’t have space to include and some of Alexis’ other work.  The pics here are ‘tester’ shots I took with my automatic camera and are not nearly as good as the real thing!

Glass Slipper

Glass Slipper

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*RECIPE* Vegan Banana and Coconut Fairy Cakes

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In my experience, vegan cakes are dichotomous things – they are either delightful concoctions or sludge with added sugar.  I don’t think I’ve ever tasted an ‘okay’ or mediocre one!   The best vegan cakes I have ever tasted are made with mango pulp.  I wondered if I could make try using other fruit pulp to bind and make a light and sweet cake.  This is my recipe for what I cobbled together using mashed banana.  The main improvement I want to try is with cooking time – I overdid them, so have suggested a shorter cooking time in these instructions.

Ingredients: 

  • Self-raising flour (4 cups)
  • Sugar (1 cup)
  • Vegetable oil (2 tablespoons)
  • Bananas (3)  Make sure they are black and mushy
  • Baking powder (1 teaspoon)
  • Bicarbonate of soda (1 teaspoon)
  • Vanilla extract (a few drops)
  • Lemon (1 teaspoon)
  • Spices (2 teaspoons)  I used cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
  • Coconut milk (2 tablespoons, or enough to achieve the right consistency)

Instructions:

Mash the bananas with the oil into a bowl.

Add the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda to the bowl, by sifting them.

Add the sugar, vanilla extract, lemon and spices.  Mix together.

Add a little of the coconut milk at a time, until you have a gooey, slightly runny mixture.

Fill some cake cases with dollops of the mixture – about half full.

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Cook the cakes until golden brown (e.g. 12 minutes on gas mark 7)

Leave to cool, then decorate.

 

 

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I decorated my with non-butter frosting (soya margarine, icing sugar, a little water and food colouring) and veggie sweets (i.e. non meat gelatine).

My first attempt at these was a cake that was moist and sweet, without being sickly.  Will update with any further experiments to this recipe!

*RECIPE* Wild Garlic and Herb Scones (Vegan)

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Still surrounded by bags of lush foraged greens – and in need of something tasty to take to work for lunch tomorrow. With this is mind, I played around with some scone recipes and came up with these.   I was pleased with the results, but think I will try to shape the scones slightly larger next time.  I would also like to chop the wild garlic into much finer pieces!  I think these would work well with jack-by-the-hedge too, although I really like wild garlic and am currently trying to make the most of it whilst it’s still in season!

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Ingredients

  • Plain flour (3 cups)
  • Porridge oats (1 cup)
  • Vegetable oil (1 tablespoon)
  • Baking powder (1 teaspoon)
  • Selection of herbs, roughly chopped  (2 tablespoons) I used sage, rosemary and oregano. 
  • Wild garlic, roughly chopped (2 handfuls)  Could try substituting spinach and a couple of cloves of garlic. 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

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Instructions: 

Chop herbs and wild garlic.  Add them and all remaining dry ingredients into a larger mixing bowl.

Stir in oil.

Add water- enough to make a stiff, sticky mixture which will hold its shape.

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Lightly grease a baking tray with oil (pictured is a muffin tin, but the ones made using a flat try worked just as well).  Spoon dollops of the mixture on to the tray.

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Cool in a preheated oven until cooked and golden.   These took 20 minutes on gas mark 7, so you can use this as a guide.

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Cut in half and served with margarine and a carrot and red cabbage coleslaw. Garnished with wild garlic leaf and flower.

These were yummy warm and I am going to try them for my packed lunch tomorrow cold.  I put some ‘slaw and margarine on top, but I think they were be good with olives, sundried tomatoes, or any veg or mushroom pâtes.

A Ramble, a Cycle, a Forage!

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Most of my day today was spent foraging.  Taking a large rucksack, some bags, gardening gloves and a pair of scissors, I headed to various spots in and around Nottingham to see what I could rustle up.

I’m still a bit of a beginner at foraging.  I tend to stick to things that are easy to identify and plentiful.  For a while I was stuck on blackberries.  However, I have begun in the last couple of seasons to branch out a little and am slowly building up my repertoire.

Even so, if something isn’t broken, don’t fix it!  I peddled down to the University Campus and filled a bag with nettles.  Good for tea and any recipe that requires leafy greens I absolutely love these.

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Nettles peacefully growing around a tree.

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Lining the banks of the small river.

I’ve written about deadnettles before.  As far as I’m concerned, they can be used interchangeably with nettles.  As I had a pair of sturdy gloves to protect me from their stings, I exclusively picked alive and stinging nettles today.

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Nettles (background, left) and their friendlier cousin, Dead Nettles (foreground, right).

Something that’s in season right now and that I’m very excited about is wild garlic.  This grows in shady spots near river banks from about now (early May) to sometime in June.  It’s another good ‘entry level’ forageable, as it has a very distinct smell and is consequently easy to identify.  If you rub some in your fingers, smell it and still aren’t sure if it’s wild garlic- then it probably isn’t!  It has a strong, sharp, garlicky smell that is unmistakable.  I have yet to find a savoury dish that I don’t like this Summer weed in.

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Wild garlic- has distinctive flowers and smelling leaves.

Something else which appears plentiful at the moment is ‘garlic mustard’ or alliaria petiolata – also called jack-by-the-hedge.  As well as growing on campus along the riverside, I’ve seen lots of this creeping into flower beds next to pavements.   It’s a little bitter, but has quite an interesting flavour.  I’ve used it to balk out sauces and stews, but it was a little bit overpowering for me personally without other veg to balance it out.

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I’ve also noticed on part of Jubilee campus (one of the newer university sites) some handy ornamental boxes containing various herbs.  As this isn’t strictly foraging and they are carefully cultivated for aesthetics, I was a bit more judicious in selecting and taking from them!

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Flower box, overlooking the lake on Jubilee Campus (Nottingham, May 2015)

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Oregano (left), sage (right) and rosemary (top).

Finds in these boxes included oregano, sage (purple and regular type) and oodles of Rosemary.   Rosemary seems to be used in a lot of ornamental displays.  I also found lots growing near the university hospital building as I popped to the library for an errand.

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University of Nottingham, medical school main entrance – flowerbed with an abundance of rosemary.

Some people dislike taking herbs from cultivated borders- or indeed foraging at all.  I have a fairly liberal attitude to property and ownership of plants!  In addition to this, I feel it is well justified.  As long as you are fairly responsible about not taking too much, there are plenty of weeds and plants to go around for all.  This includes wildlife.  Plus there’s a positive ecological impact to the reduction in waste caused by you not eating something commercially grown and transported to you.  Still, there are examples of people going overboard – such as restaurants in the New Forest decimating wild mushroom populations.  Although I think I would have to do far more work than I am generally inclined to on a forage to make this level of impact, it’s probably wise to exercise good judgement.  My personal rule is to try to not take so much of anything that it looks obvious that foraging has taken place.  If a casual glance would tell you that anything more than a woodland creature had been grazing, I feel I’ve taken too much.

My bags full of delicious greens I headed home.  I stopped by at the site of some wild fennel I happened upon about a week ago to see if it was still there.  Happily, it was!

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Hello fennel!

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Wild fennel growing on unused land, Wollaton Road (Nottingham, May 2015).

Poking out from through a fence, this is just about accessible from the pavement.  This particular patch is next to a fairly busy road.  Some people advise against taking anything from sites that overlook roads, particularly large ones with heavy traffic.  The reasoning is that they are growing near a site of high pollution.  I tend to ignore this, although I do see the logic of it.  I think it probably does have an impact on what is found in the plants, although I suspect it is negligible compared to living in and breathing in such pollution.  One thing I am weary of however, is not picking things that you think might have been exposed to weedkiller.  It is probably quite easy to eat a fairly high concentration of something not meant to be consumed by humans and designed to poison other creatures this way!

Once back home and laden down with my ‘harvest’ I began to plot what I could make with it all.  I intended to dry some of the nettles as tea, use the herbs throughout the week to flavour my general cooking and maybe turn the nettles and wild garlic in to burgers and/ or some sort of delicious soup!

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Herb haul from today’s forage.

I hope this inspires some people to try foraging.  I find it’s a fun, cheap and environment-friendly way to be a ‘foodie’.

*Update 10.05.2015*  Have cobbled together a recipe I rather like for wild garlic and mixed herb scones, which you can find here.

*RECIPE* Wild Greens and Mushroom Veggie Burger.

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Armed with an abundance of foraged greens today,  I decided to try to rustle together something with them.  Ideally I wanted to try something I could barbecue, but with the weather looking a bit glum, I settled for something I could stick in a pan if needed.   The result was these veggie burgers.  The recipe is vegan, but in the interests of full disclosure I should say that all of us added a good helping of cheese to ours as soon as I had finished taking pictures!

This  makes 3 good sized burgers.  I heartily recommend playing with the recipe and making it your own!

I don’t like weighing things when I cook.  Apologies if the approximate measurements of ingredients isn’t your style.

Ingredients:

  • Kidney Beans (1 tin)
  • Semolina (about 1/2 cup)
  • Mushrooms (2 cups )
  • Nettles (medium bowlful) Can be substituted with other bought or foraged greens, such as spinach or dead nettles
  • Wild garlic (generous handful) Can omit and use a couple of extra cloves of regular garlic
  • Onion (half)
  • Garlic (2 cloves)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Herbs to taste (I used fennel, rosemary, sage and oregano)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Wine vinegar (teaspoon)  (optional)

Instructions: 

Wash and drain the kidney beans.  Put in a large bowl and mash (i.e. with a potato masher).

Add the semolina

Lightly fry the garlic, wild garlic, nettles and mushrooms.  Add this to the bowl mixture.

Finely chop the herbs and add these to the mixture.  Further add all remaining ingredients.  Mix well.

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The mixture should be quite firm and hold its shape.

 

Divide and shape into burger-like pieces.

 

Nearly there!

Frying the burgers.

 

Shallow fry in a large pan (I used a wok) until golden brown.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Served with rosemary and garlic fries, a red cabbage & carrot coleslaw and some gherkins.

 

 

The results were satisfying.  The mixture held its shape well when cooking (often a pitfall of veggie burgers) and the semolina gave it a good, firm texture.   I would like to try them on the bbq –  not sure how they will keep their shape, but worth a try.  I would also love to try with wild, foraged mushrooms which I was unable to find on my exploring today.

Like Riding a Bicycle.

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I was recently gifted a brand new bicycle.  Here she is framed by some street art:

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My new bicycle, positioned under a bridge on Walthamstow Marshes, London.

 

This is the first new bike I’ve owned since I was about 12 and is a joy to ride.  It’s also a foldable one, which means I can take it on buses and trains- very exciting!  It’s been a while before the Winter set that I’ve properly cycled.  I  never meant to be a fair weather cyclists, but I suspect this proves that I am!  I’m getting back into the habit though, commuting a few miles to work and back every day and loving it.

Although I rather enjoy the way everything just works and that there’s a warranty if it doesn’t, I still haven’t lost my love of cranky old bikes that need attention.  My current project for when I have a bit more time is this bicycle:

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Raleigh Camper, bought for £20 secondhand (still needs some loving attention, especially to the brakes!!).

I really love the freedom of cycling as an action and the ease and inexpense of it as a form of transport.   I think it’s a great way to travel.  Whenever I’ve had a bit of a break from cycling I always get a bit nervous riding on the roads.  This only lasts briefly though and is not nearly as severe as the nerves I get whenever I hire a motor vehicle!   In the last five years I have driven a car twice.  Both times have been hire vehicles.  The second was a large white van and was terrifying.

I also recently learnt that bicycles were classes as ‘carriages’ under the 1835 Highway Act and that this endures!

On holiday in Valencia recently with some friends, we hired some bikes.  The cycling there is amazing.  They have a stretch of park, the Jardin Turin, which was formed from a former river bed.  The river was drained and is now a beautiful park meandering across the length of the city.  This is a popular route for cyclists (as well as what feels like thousands of joggers every evening).

Valencia also has miles of decent cycle paths, properly separated from motor traffic and mainly painted a fetching green.   Possibly my favourite moment of the holiday was the amble-cycle we took through the park, culminating in a ride along sea front, looking out over the beach.

To give you a flavour, here are some pictures of the bikes we hired.  I’ve managed to get these shots without other cyclists (or joggers- really, hundreds)- surprising as there were a lot about and it really seems a popular past time there!

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Our hire bicycles ( a bit clunky, but perfectly serviceable) in the Jardin Turin, Valencia, Spain (April, 2015).

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Me peddling along the cycle path running through the Jardin Turin – I former river bed (Valencia, Spain, April 2015)

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Finding our way to the beach (Valencia, Spain, April 2015).

 

Declining Barclaycard’s Invitation… with Paper Crafts and a Lucky Penny.

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Declining Barclaycard’s Invitation… with Paper Crafts and a Lucky Penny.

A little while ago an ‘invitation’ arrived through my door.  Addressing me by my first name (how presumptuous!) Barclaycard announced my ‘invitation to apply for a Barclaycard’.   Their letter enthusiastically informed me that I could have a credit limit of ‘up to £1,200’.  A bargain at a representative APR of 34.9%.

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Now, hopefully if I were to fill out an application form, it would be rejected all the way back to last year.  I am a full time student.  Financially worse than that, this is my second degree-  I graduated with a BSc more than ten years ago, owing about £12,000 to the student loans company.   As my current studies are towards a degree in medicine (i.e. I will hopefully be a qualified doctor with good job prospects in the NHS in the near future) I am given a bursary by the NHS (about £230 a month).  This is not enough to live on and is supplemented by another student loan (about £2,000 extra each year) and money gratefully received from my parents – I am extremely lucky that they are willing and able to do this.  The only other income streams I have are ebay, etsy (although my shop is bombing!)  and the occasional spot of busking.  When first started this course, I did try to get a part time job, but found the study hours incompatible with most regular jobs.   In short although I am financially much more secure than a lot of people, I should definitely not be given (more) credit.    

In addition to this I am extremely weary of consumerism and overconsumption.  I try my hardest to not create a demand for wasteful things: most of my clothes are bought from charity shops, on ebay or are handmade;  my furniture comes from freecycle and my unwanted gifts are sent there; I regularly pull things out of skips for creative or garden purposes; I balk at the idea of having my own car again and instead use a secondhand bicycle to travel around; I try to buy as much food as possible in the form of raw ingredients from local non-chain shops; and I am fanatical about recycling.  Not only should I not have more money, but the credit splurge that would ensue would make me feel extremely guilty and unhappy.

I came to the decision that I would have to decline Barclaycard’s invitiation!   At first I went to put their paperwork in the (recycling) bin. Then I thought about sending them a sarcastic reply.  Ha ha, revenge!  But who would read it?  Probably some poor minimum wage drone who had no say in sending the invitation out and who was just trying to get through their working day.  With this drone in mind, I decided to do some paper crafts with the ample supply that the application pack and throw in a ‘lucky penny’ (regular penny I had decided was genuinely lucky and labelled as such).  Something that was a least a little creative in response:

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I would write them a letter and include these gifts.  Maybe it would brighten up their day.  Maybe it would make them laugh.  Maybe it would trigger some sort of incident reporting system… but hopefully one of the other two.  By way of explanation my letter read,

‘Dear Unnamed Worker,

After careful consideration I have decided to decline your kind offer to apply for a Barclaycard.  Many factors played a part in this, not least of all: my status as an unemployed full-time student whose only income is very occasional busking; my New Year’s resolution to buy less rubbish; and my general distaste for mindless consumerism.  However, I appreciate that you are unlikely to have been responsible for the original invitation and that your personal culpability in this matter is limited.  In recognition of this please accept my ‘desk decoration and wellbeing set’ in lieu of a credit card application.  Included are:

*Decorative Paperchain and Paper Snowflakes (to be affixed to desk/ window/ cubicle walls)

*Lucky Penny

*Origami Frog (Will jump if tail end pressed downwards and released)

Wishing you all the best for the New Year,

http://www.SingingtotheFashioningofaNewWorld.wordpress.com

XXX ‘

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There is a good chance my efforts will be thrown in the dustbin.  But I have included my blog address so depending on the sort of person who opens it, there is a slender chance I might get to hear of it’s fate.  I posted the letter whilst taking a little stroll outside earlier this evening and now wait with baited breath!

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Self-addressed envelop with postage prepaid to Barclaycard, included in original pack.

Gardening After Dark

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Gardening After Dark

My plans for this rather windy Sunday afternoon involved gardening in my neglected yard.  I call it a ‘yard’ rather than ‘garden’ because of it’s size (about 4m x 1.5m) and general design- i.e. stretch of concrete.  Based on what we found when we moved in, the main purpose of this yard had been as a smoking area and dump site for unwanted household furniture.   I wanted to actually grow things in it.   This is a rented place so I feel unable to do anything very dramatic, like put raised beds in.   Also, as a student in my last year of study, I don’t want to be put lots of time and effort into planting things then having to abandon them when I move.  So far I’ve planted various flowers and crops in salvaged and recycled containers.  I have not been the keenest of gardeners over the Christmas period, hence my plan for today.

However, the early winter sunset and my own personal laziness meant I didn’t really get started until the sun was setting.  I also had a rather long conversation over lunch with one of my housemates about growing food.  His initial argument was that it was imprudent to grow food in a household with a garden like ours, because we would still need to buy a lot of food produced commercially, rendering the exercise pointless.  I think we agreed somewhat later on the idea that if all four of us decided to put in a fair amount of time each day (say an hour- enough to not interfere with work) and decided to really dedicate ourselves to it – e.g. growing indoors as well as in containers, maybe even getting some livestock like chickens – we could probably grow enough to substantially add to our diets.  We would still have to buy a lot of staples to supplement, but we could claim to be producing much of what we ate.

Unfortunately, no one but me was willing to consider actually doing this.  It did however, inspire me to do some indoor food gardening.  A long way from self-sufficiency or even producing a significant amount of my diet, but I did enjoy it and it solved the *lighting* problem.

The bulk of my work involved planting some mixed salad leaves and some herbs near a windowsill.  It makes sense that if we are going to keep the house warm through winter, we might as well make use of the effective heated greenhouse that has been created!  For extra green points, the large pot at the bottom was saved from a skip a few years ago.  Instead of a life slowly decaying in landfill site (it’s plastic) it is now a salad plot.  2015-01-11 19.07.47

Next, I decided to set up some beans for sprouting.  These should only take a few days.  I took the instructions from the book ‘Grow Something To Eat Everyday’ (Jo Whittingham, 2011).  I interpreted them as follows:

1. Soak beans (or peas) for 6-12 hours.

2. Drain and place in a jar (about 1/3 full).

3. Rinse and drain daily to keep moist.

4. Enjoy delicious bean sprouts!

Obviously, I only managed to get to step 2 today, but will update with pictures of this and anything else that I manage to grow today!

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Finally, I tried the old avocado seed and cocktail stick project.

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There are lots of websites that describe how to do this, e.g here.  I’ve tried this a few times, largely unsuccessfully!   However, I’ve found if you persevere one will eventually come through.  One came through for me last year and has been growing well indoors.

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In fact it has grown so well I’ve managed to pot it up once and even prune it, which has produced some nice busy new leaves.  It seems unlikely it will ever grow avocados from what I’ve read online.  However, it still brings me a lot of pleasure to grow it, even if it is even less likely to produce viable food than the other bits and pieces I did today!

As I’ve said, will update blog with pics if and when things start to grow!

Having a Lovely Day

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On my return to Nottingham following the trek home to London for Christmas (and following my last piece on street art) I discovered this:

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‘Have a Lovely Day’: Street Art on Derby Road, near Canning Circus, Nottingham January 2015.

The same message (and presumably the same artist) from the Nottingham Post bit on ‘positive graffiti’, written across a boarded up shop front.  Not sure how long it’s been there, but I think it must have been placed in the last fortnight whilst I was on holiday.  What a nice surprise!

Common Space, Creative Space?

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Common Space, Creative Space?

I recently came across an article in the local paper on a piece of ‘positive graffiti’ near where I live in Nottingham, UK.  Someone has written ‘have a lovely day’ in fancy writing on one of the city’s public footbridges.  It’s a pretty small article in a local paper, but what caught my eye was the response from the council at the end.  Their spokesperson says that there is ‘no such thing’ as positive graffiti and then outlines the council’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards graffiti and will automatically have it removed.  This got me thinking about art and use of public space.  I’ve had an interest in street art for a while.  Even the crappy scrawls and tags you find, probably done by bored or frustrated teenagers.  Many people find graffiti, especially this latter kind, an eyesore.   Whilst I would find some individual graffiti difficult to defend on its own artistic merit, I have seen much which I think is genuinely good art- original, thought provoking or just pleasing to the eye.   The act of making this art however, is almost universally defined as a criminal act.    What strikes me is how little this is open to discussion.  Public space is commonly used to display images, notably in advertising.   Images which are often provocative are used to sell goods in the public domain, and because this is monetized by whoever owes the space overlooking the public domain it is automatically legal.  When an individual does it for reasons of creativity however, it is illegal, regardless of the intent or quality of the work.  Public money goes towards obliterating it as in the ‘zero tolerance’ policy of Nottingham City Council.  To me this seems wrong.  Making art is a positive act and should be accessible and open to everyone.  Using public spaces seems like a good way to do enable.  I like the attitude of the group Brandalism.  They hijack the advertising spaces on buses, replacing it with their own work.  Their attitude seems to be that art in the public domain should be self-governed.  They instruct others how to access the advert spaces, encouraging others to do the same and replace their work with something else if they dislike it.

Below are some images of what I would describe as Street art.  It is mainly taken from my holiday in Seville last Summer.  In this city there seemed to be a big culture of making street art, coupled with a lack of will to police or remove it.  Enjoy.

Street art near Soho  (London, October 2014)

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‘I Believe in You’: Graffiti (Seville, 2014).

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‘And Fly’:  Poem and Birds (Sevilly, July 2014)

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‘Art Every Day’:  Stencil Street Art (Seville, July 2014).

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Wolfman:  Paper Sticker Street Art (Seville, July 2014)

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Roaring Lion: Paper Glued to Wall Street Art (Seville, July 2014)

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‘Hate is Love in Disguise’:  Street Art (Seville, July 2014)

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‘Demonstration’: Sticker on a lamppost giving notice of a rally against cuts to public services in Andalucia (Seville, July 2014).

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Defaced advertisement: vagina added with black pen to male model (Seville, 2014)

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‘What is this Life if Full of Care…?’: Mural on a bridge (Walthamstow Marshes, London, January 2015)

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