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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Coasties is mud again, but lots of sunshine too

A few days away with a friend, then family to stay and now back to the usual round of mud, sun and the phone.

Coasties,, last week was at Falling Foss, a massive task which will probably take several weeks to complete. Part of the internationally famous Coast to Coast path goes through here and crosses the stream at a ford. Recently there has been a spate of accidents in the wet and the mud so the solution is a very long and, despite ups and downs, level board walk. It is near a well known beauty spot so the plan is to make it suitable for all ages as well as long distance walkers. The engineering and practical skills required are beyond my capabilities, but there are hundreds of pieces of timber to be moved, all across the swamp that is to be bridged. No-one wants to fall over, or lose their boots in the mud, so we set up a chain gang and hand each piece across the worst of the mud and carry them where is it slightly less wet.

Eventually the builders have all they need for several days and some of us set off to do some ditch clearing and then some path clearing. Luckily the sun is shining and we are surrounded by a fabulous woodland, unfortunately I have left my camera at home, so you will have to take my word for it!

Short Stop,, has been very quiet for the last few weeks. I am afraid that this is because several of the referring agencies have reduced their opening hours (because of cuts to their funding), rather than a reduction in the numbers of destitute asylum seekers. So more people are probably sleeping on the streets and also not receiving the advice and help that these agencies can give them. I have one referral one week and just two the following week, both placed fairly easily.

One evening I run a Fairtrade stall,, at a craft evening organised by Sight Support Ryedale, I don't sell a lot, but several people come up to tell me that they bought things at our big shop just a few weeks ago. it is a lovely evening, so thanks to Sight Support for inviting us. Still with Fairtrade, at the beginning of this week I take delivery from Fairer World,, of several boxes of Christmas things, food and crafts for West Heslerton School, They are having a stall all week and I will collect what is left next Monday, thank you West Heslerton for spreading the word about Fairtrade. By special request there are lots of chocolate coins!

just starting
some of the wood
to be burned
Finally Coasties is back by the seaside at Hayburn Wyke, working with the National Trust. There were two main tasks, burning a lot of dead wood, far too much for habitat piles, and pulling out the invasive  rhododendron that the Victorians planted as a visitor attraction. I opted to help with the fire and got very hot. By mid afternoon most of the wood was burnt and a lot of rhododendron pulled out and cut down, again the sun had shone, but very little mud this week. Finally we used water from a nearby stream to damp down the fire and went home, smoky and tired.

Another good two weeks for me, and, I hope, for the wider society I live in. Certainly the homeless asylum seekers and the walkers in the woods seemed pleased with our activities. Next year in Fairtrade Fortnight I hope to meet a Fairtrade banana producer to find out more about how Fairtrade is helping them. Earlier this year I met an olive farmer from Palestine who produces olive oil for Zaytoun,, Fairtrade and sometimes organic too.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Musings on Palestine


These are some personal musings from my recent stay in Palestine. Others can and have recorded the history, this is something different.

  •  We are walking on the ramparts of the old city of Jerusalem, ahead of us a middle aged woman shouts, in English, abuse at a man in a garden below us. She is accusing him of throwing rubbish onto the old Ottoman walls, she is probably right. He swears back at her. She looks at us, expecting support, she has heard us speaking and knows we speak English, she speaks to us. I turn my shoulder and blank her; normally I would have agreed with her. But this is his quarter of the city, he sees her as the other, an interloper, despite the rubbish we know he is right, it is his city, and he may do as he pleases.
  • We are walking through the old quarter of Nablus; our guide shows us photos of a family on a wall. They were killed when the occupying force thought that one of theirs had been killed by someone in the house, so they all died. The last time I saw photos like this was in a village high in the Apennines in Italy, there a whole village had been killed by the occupying force when someone in the village had killed one of the occupiers. Plus ca change, plus c’est the meme chose.
  • Now we are in an olive grove, high above the Jordan valley, the land below us is rich alluvial soil; in this climate it could sustain two crops a year. But the people whose land it is may not irrigate, so only one crop can be taken, wheat or maize and the vegetable which could have been grown must be imported. Meanwhile the occupiers, in their new properties high on the hill tops, have lawns and swimming pools. Anywhere in the Middle East that sort of use of water would be profligate, like the green ornamental shrubs I saw in Dubai being irrigated, but here it is wicked beyond belief.
  • As we walk along a short stretch of road a young conscript jumps out of his jeep, he is almost young enough to be my grandson. He is not quite sure who we are, so he cautions us to be careful. I resist the temptation to ask him if there are lions around, as all the local people couldn’t be more friendly.
  • After a picnic lunch we visit one of the few water treatment plants that are allowed by the occupiers. One of the men treats us to an impromptu concert; the style in which he is singing comes from medieval Andalucia when the Moors ruled in southern Spain. It is ironic that in those ‘barbaric’ times all three Abrahimic faiths lived in a sort of peaceful co-existence, rare today indeed.
  • Two days later we are in Bethlehem, standing by a Banksy cartoon, which happens to be on a very big wall, odd how the height of the houses in the old ghetto of Venice look very like a wall too. I wonder why this wall makes me think of that?  I think of other walls I have seen, Hadrian’s Wall, the Berlin Wall, the former now a tourist destination, the later crumbled into dust, one day here too………
  • We return to Jerusalem on a local bus, our large suitcases in the place under the bus for big items. The soldiers of the occupation get on at a check point, they look at our passports and wish us good day, no one and no machine has checked our cases; clearly this is not a security check, but a system of control and humiliation. We’ve lived in London, we know what a security check it. Or is it a form of profiling, we are elderly and not Arab, we have seen profiling in London too, we know what it looks like.
  • Later in the souk, there are soldiers of the occupation  perhaps two hundred metres apart, the souk is crowded, one could do a lot of damage before they could stop you, so what is their point, simply that they can?
  • Finally I am at the airport. There is a huge water feature, water spraying up from the ground and down from the ceiling, I am sure it is recycled, but what a mockery of the country which I have just left, where water can be turned off at the whim of the occupying power. I spend no money, but drink a lot of the (free) water and childishly flush a lot of toilets.
taking the message to Palestine.
 Can you see the bullet hole in the
top right hand corner? This is the
entrance to the Church of the Nativity
this mosque is opposite
the Church of the Nativity
in Bethlehem

that wall

Back from Palestine

A new place to walk, in the olive groves and wadis of Palestine. It was too late for wild flowers, but we caught the end of the olive harvest. It is a small and encircled place, with a wall and the Jordan river as its effective boundaries. But the people we met were kind and generous, both the guides who led us and the people in whose homes we stayed. We also met many volunteers, mostly women, encouraging and leading other women to become economically independent. It made me feel rather inadequate; in their circumstances, water cut off without warning, constant harassment from illegal 'neighbours', their olive trees cut down, would I still be as resilient as they are? I am not at all sure. I will do a separate post of my musings.

this beautiful rowan tree
will be in a glade where
several of the new paths
will meet up
I returned home tired and rather dispirited, but luckily the first day back after a few happy days with my family was Coasties, The weather was perfect, and we were in Ravenscar with the National Trust,, as regular readers will know one of my favourite places. It was an exciting new project, opening up an area of bracken and dense undergrowth so that new paths can be laid for families to walk and cycle in and other wilder tracks for intrepid mountain bikers. It is part of the National Trust's programme of encouraging more visitors to use their country side properties as much as the 'big houses' that some people associate with them. So we cut and lopped and laughed and joked the day away. By the 2 o'clock, nearly an hour before we usually finish we had all worked so hard that the day's task was complete. Once again Coasties had exceeded expectations!
fair trade toys for sale

I can't decide what
to buy
Then two days in the Friends' Meeting House in Malton ‎for our annual Fairtrade shop, all the goods from Fairer World in York,

Both mornings a colleague and I tied arrows and signs to lampposts in the town, it seemed to draw people in on Saturday, but not so well on Friday, maybe the rain didn't help. However we still sold over £1500 of food and crafts, all fairly traded, giving the producers in developing countries a fair return for their labours. If you live locally you can see even more lovely crafts at the shop itself.

sloes, I had left it a bit late,
but the ones left were very big!
Then on Sunday the rain blew itself away and the sun came out and luckily I was being a voluntary ranger on the coast. I was blown along from Hayburn Wyke almost to Ravenscar and then back in the comparative shelter of the old railway line. On the way I managed to pick enough sloes for several bottles of sloe gin.

So lucky me, a safe and open country in which to do my bit for my small society. I listen to Joan Baez singing Jerusalem as I drive home and try not to cry.

The next post will be my second political post in this series.