Archive for March, 2009
“There’s a man who looks as if he could do with a good sausage.” The tone is cheerful and the comment clearly intended to stop us in our tracks. It works. Mind you, the smell from the sizzling burgers and bangers might have done the trick too. But Nick Paul is taking no chances. He is determined to draw crowds to a new Farmers Market in a perhaps unlikely corner of Leith – and encourage them to spend good money while they are there
If this is Friday it’s got to be the Ocean Terminal Farmers Market. Or at least it is every 2nd and 4th Friday of the month. It’s been going since the beginning of the year but I didn’t know it existed until Nick Paul emailed me after reading about the Greener Leith Food Summit. He hoped anyone interested in good local food would head for the farmers market. Two weeks ago I finally tracked it down to its location right outside Ocean Terminal and my mate Nick came along to take the pictures for his website too.
The other Nick, the man behind the sausages, turns out to be the driving force behind the market. Nick Paul also runs the crisp stall at Edinburgh Farmers Market but he is much more than a dab hand with potatoes. He is a passionate evangelist for food. Make that local food, organic food, tasty food, wholesome food, in fact superlatively good food that doesn’t necessarily cost more than the stuff in the supermarket but is home-produced food that hasn’t travelled across continents to get to your plate.
That’s Nick Paul in the high-visibility jacket [thanks to Nick (Gardner) for the pictures]
“Like for like” the market co-ordinator insists, “food from farmers markets will cost 20% less than the same kind of items in a supermarket.” There are times when Nick P does go on a bit (he has written a farmers market cook book and runs the foodtrail website too) but there is no doubting his enthusiasm as he leads us from butchers to bakers to fishmongers to leather-goods-makers to cheese and soap sellers and back again.
Besides this is the man who is footing the bill to get the farmers market going in Leith so he is literally putting his money where his mouth is. He hands us leaflets to make sure we spread the word. By the time we get to the end of the 12 stalls (he’s got plans to expand as custom increases) I have also gathered two pies (a delicious vegetarian mix of carrot, Dunsyre blue and chilli) a spelt loaf, three cheeses (all Scottish), some home-made butter, a pot of strawberry granita, a nicely dressed crab and, well, I’m afraid I have no cash left for the cider I sample free of charge.
Two weeks later, I don’t regret any of the purchases. The quality was excellent (as indeed it is at any of Scotland’s farmers markets). I just wished I had enough left in my purse to buy that excellent cider from Northumberland – perhaps a little pricey at £12 for three litres (though you get £2 back when you return the polypin). “Wye aye pet, just gan along to the hole in the wall and get some cash”. But I had run out of time and work is pulling in a different direction today.
Ocean Terminal Farmers Market is on the second and fourth Friday 10am – 4pm every month, protected from the weather beneath the awnings of the shopping centre, and bringing new interest to an otherwise featureless space. The next market is on Good Friday, 10th April. I hope the cider man is there.
Thanks to Nick (Gardner) for the pix
March 27th, 2009
Just for the record, I did write a letter to Edinburgh’s Head of Planning to register my concern over Tesco’s plans to open a new store at 8 Picardy Place. As it happens I wrote it the same day I went to see the Edinburgh premiere of the Age of Stupid. Make of that what you will.
By the time I posted the letter I didn’t have much hope that it would make any difference. But I had discovered the power of Twitter. Greener Leith supportively tweeted my Facebook rage against the mighty Tesco and suddenly there was a flow of traffic to my blog that I am not at all used to. Some left comments, a few made very good points but to my amazement there was a depressing number in favour of the superstore colonising our neighbourhood. Or, almost as bad, couldn’t care one way or the other.
I have a new pessimism about the ways and wisdom of humanity since seeing the Age of Stupid and discovering that 60% of the population do not believe climate change is a man-made problem. With the chance of man-made solutions.
But maybe all is not yet lost. Every time I look at the ‘dashboard’ of my blog I see two stories battling it out for top place. So far Cafe Culture Thrives in Broughton is still well ahead of Stop Tesco Destroying Broughton. What would you make of that?
[See also Crumbs of Comfort]
March 25th, 2009
Lunch at Dionika – what else is Friday for?
Because it’s Friday we’re out to lunch. We’re just about to start on the fish when Eddie and Barry drop in, like us lured by the board outside offering three courses and a glass of wine for £7.50.
If that sounds too good to be true you better go to Dionika’s too. I don’t know how they can do it but if our lunch is anything to go by it is not just true but very good indeed.
We had mussel soup with beans, flavoured I think with paprika, rich and tasty: almost a meal in itself (Eddie says mixed veg is good too). Followed by plaice, chips and salad (I can probably produce as good myself but, though I say so myself, that’s really not bad), and flan, the Spanish version of creme caramel, (which is smoother and creamier than I have managed so far).
Perhaps best of all was the glass of white Rioja included in the deal. Altogether, fantastic value for money. I hope it puts Dionika right back on the food trail.
I like this quirky mix of restaurant, deli and bar. I remember when 3-6 Canonmills Bridge was a rather strange clothes shop selling kilts and posh frocks for the kind of evening out no sane person enjoys. Before that it was a boat’s chandlers with a window full of coiled rope.
The restuarant opened in 2005 adding to the international flavour which makes this such a good place to live, just down the road from long-established Cantonese Loon Fung, and across the street from French-Scottish Circle (see also the flourishing French newcomer L’Escargot Bleu up the hill in Broughton Street).
Dionika feels very Spanish as indeed it should since it is run by Juan Dionislo Blanco an Iberian extravert who enjoys moving between tables in breaks from the kitchen.
Grey-bearded, long-haired and welcoming in a slightly off the wall way, he reminds me of a scaled down Billy Connolly in a chef’s apron. He’s disarmingly generous in sharing his passion for cooking with customers at the end of their meal, often challenging them to spot the secret ingredient in the dish they have just eaten. Unusually he then gives away quite a few secrets in recipes on his website.
Juan didn’t appear during our lunch. Perhaps that’s asking too much for £7.50. One word of warning, don’t expect a bargain if you enquire about the wine at the end of the meal. We went home with a bottle of very fine Rioja which cost £14 – almost as much as our three course meal with glass of wine for two. But maybe that shows what a good deal it is.
March 15th, 2009
Update March 26: Tesco is coming to Broughton, what will happen to local shops? See Broughton awaits Tesco Express
Can we stop Tesco dominating the landscape? I feel strongly that we can and must. But we will need to be quick. Letters to protest against yet another Tesco store in the Broughton area have to reach the council’s head of planning by 20 March. That’s just over a week to raise a campaign against wanton destruction of local character and independence.
Why on earth would we need another Tesco store in this area? There is already the Tesco supermarket at Canonmills and a Tesco Metro in Leith. But Britain’s biggest trade guzzler (Tesco reports pre-tax profits of £1.45bn) has swooped on the opportunity of Reid Furniture store closing in Picardy Place.
That’s a death threat to the diversity of local shops that give Broughton a real buzz and a true sense of place: Crombie’s one of the best butchers in Edinburgh, Mr Fishy, the Deli, and many small, friendly corner shops.
But we don’t have to let it happen. A campaign is already growing. On his way to the station this morning Ray was handed a flyer by the young man serving him in the newsagent. He emailed it to me from the train and said get blogging.
Our vigilant local newsletter, Spurtle, is also urging local residents to write to the council. According to the Spurtle message on the excellent new EH7 Noticeboard.
Tesco’s have applied for planning permission at 8 Picardy Place (Ref. 09/00385/FUL). They are intending the installation of a ‘shopfront to Picardy Place, plant louvres to Broughton St Lane, and interior fitout’ on 3 floors. The target determination date is 17 April 2009 so letters of objection will have to be sent in SOON.
Spurtle editor, Alan McIntosh, says they will not lead a campaign against Tesco but they will report (and therefore support) one and they have already alerted local city councillors, MPs and MSPs.
It’s not going to be easy. Tesco does not need to apply for change of use to open their store. But when people unite to combine well-informed argument with political weight they can stop the behemoth retailer in its tracks. A good cause for Greener Leith maybe?
The point about architectural heritage is worth making. We could campaign to develop Picardy Place so that it is a handsome gateway to the city centre. Better options for the old furniture store would be a new arts centre. Or how about a whole foods organic indoor market which would complement rather than compete with local shops?
Take a look at Whole Foods in Chicago for an example of style, substance and retailing success. Now, isn’t this an opportunity for Real Foods (crammed with good stuff but cramped) to expand into 21st century credit-crunch, climate change reality? Tesco should have no future in this environment.
[PS added 13 March: In response to the point made by Tony Leach I have removed my original opening sentence, referring to 'Tesco outrage' although I am still outraged at this real threat to the viability of our local independent shops. I will certainly write to MP MSPS and councillors using measured reasoning]
March 11th, 2009
Can art change society? Here’s news of an exciting new community theatre project in Leith which aims to get people actively involved in society by taking part in art. No theatre experience needed but an enquiring mind is useful.
It sounds like a theatrical version of Leith Open Space, the voluntary group I am involved in, which is why Gavin Crichton got in touch. Gavin is director of the very innovative ACTive INquiry Theatre Company, who have just secured lottery funding to run Space workshops in Leith exploring what ‘public space’ is and what it should be.
People taking part will help shape a brand new piece of theatre for performance in April and at Leith Festival in June. What a pity the workshop clashes with the women’s event I am helping to organise the very same day (Saturday 14 March).
For me art is now by far the most powerful way of engaging with people. Politicians are too afraid of confronting prejudice, too fearful of public opinion to tackle big questions. (How do we achieve fairer taxes, rights for migrant workers in a global economy, meet both opportunities and threats of climate change…)
In Brazil, according to the ACTive website, Theatre of the Oppressed, uses theatre as “rehearsal for reality”. As Gavin explains: “We work in a type of theatre called Forum Theatre which actively engages the audience by enabling them to question what is happening in a play and even change its outcome!”
And not just the play. When spectators become actors the play can become reality. Incredibly in Rio de Janeiro, laws have been changed with the help of Legislative Theatre, a pioneering project developed by Augusto Boal, artist, activist and founder of Theatre of the Oppressed.
Could this be Edinburgh’s future? Seems unlikely right now but one of the many things I like about Leith is the claim that it is “twinned with Rio de Janeiro.”
ACTive INquiry in action
Space workshops are free, from 1-5pm, Saturday 14 March in St James Hall, 12 St Johns Place, Letih. For more information or to book a place: email firstname.lastname@example.org phone 0771 4321 629 or check the website www.activeinquiry.co.uk
[a slightly different version of this blog is also on the Leith Open Space website]
March 10th, 2009
Come the revolution
Who said this: “Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credit, until their debt becomes unbearable…
…The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of the banks, which will have to be nationalized. The State will then have to step in to save the banks which will eventually lead to communism.”
I thought I was being clever basing a quick blog on this quote attributed to Karl Marx in 1867.
” Have you said where it comes from? “ says Ray peering over my shoulder. At first I think he’s afraid I will name the unlikely source who sent the quote in an email. But no, he’s being historically accurate. Which is a pity because now I find a Google-load of bloggers have used it already and my quick joke becomes a long trawl through all sorts of left, right and plain cranky websites who quote it without question (as indeed, I was going to). Das Kapital is claimed to be the context.
Some sceptics, however, pasted it into Snopes, the hoax busting website, whose contributors cast convincing doubt on the authenticity of the source. Uncle Karl would not have used a word like technology, they suggest. And some of these sages have even read Das Kapital.
Authentic or not. The interesting thing is how eagerly this quote is being circulated with undisguised glee by business suits and folk who generally like (as they put it) to trouser a bonus or two. What do you suppose that means?
Pictures from Szorbopark, resting ground for rusting Soviet heros. Set for a come back?
March 6th, 2009