Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Billingsgate Humour

I try to carry my own bags when I go shopping, to avoid consuming plastic bags. But traders at Billingsgate Market have no truck with such fripperies. I had a brief but amusing exchange with one of these merry gents, just as he was about to put my purchase – a box of prawns – into a plastic bag.
me: Thanks, I've got a bag.
trader:(going right ahead) Well, now you've got another one.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Claret Jug

Eighty-year-old claret jug
picked up for £8
from a vintage flea market.
On a microwave turntable
lit from below
with a table lamp.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Religion and my Grandmother

My parents weren't as religious as my grandmother (my father's mother) would like. Perhaps she thought that if she started early, she could prevent me from falling into their godless ways. One day when I was about four, she said, "Your father says he doesn't believe in god, but in fact he does. If I ask him to kick an idol, will he do it?" This seemed like a convincing argument at the time, but later I decided that the conclusion didn't follow. Respect for a symbol and its cultural associations is not the same as belief.

Around the same time, just to see how I would react, she asked me, "তুমি কি মুসলমান?" ("Are you a Muslim?") I wasn't sure what a Muslim was, or whether I was one, but I hated confessing ignorance. Besides, I had heard adults using the terms "Hindu" and "Muslim", and had formed the vague impression that we were in the former camp. So I responded somewhat emphatically, "না, আমি হিন্দু!" ("No, I'm a Hindu!") This became a popular party piece, and my grandmother took to asking me the question in front of visitors. And because it seemed to amuse them, I would always give the same answer.

This game stopped after a few months, but until I was sixteen or so, when filling up forms which asked my religion, I continued to give essentially the same answer. Even though I didn't believe in reincarnation, the divinity of the Vedas or the existence of a Supreme Being and I didn't observe any Hindu rituals in daily life, on forms I would automatically select "Hindu". I would do so because this was what I had always done, and because my parents were Hindu. When you think about it, this line of reasoning was hardly more sophisticated than that which led me to proclaim to my grandmother all those years ago, "No, I'm a Hindu!"

Monday, February 3, 2014

Disproportionate Force

In The Valley of Fear, Sherlock Holmes' arch-enemy Moriarty brings to bear the full might of his vast criminal network for the murder of one man. Holmes describes it as "crushing the nut with the triphammer – an absurd extravagance of energy – but the nut is very effectually crushed all the same."

We wanted to bore holes in a milk-bottle lid in order to make a watering-can. The lid is made of thin plastic, so even a sharp fork would have done the job. But because we like power tools, we used a Clarke Metalworker CDP101B.


"Absurd extravagance of energy" is a cool phrase.