Living in the UK countryside:Farmers Markets

farmers-marketTGIUK welcomes James’s back with his interesting insights about living in the UK countryside, which can, as you will read,can seem a long way from the pressurised lives of UK cities and where Farmers Markets are not what you think they are…

Farmers Market

My rationale for writing about the farmers market stems from my stay in Northumberland many years ago. For those of you who don’t know this county, it’s perhaps one of the most picturesque counties in England and lies in the North East of England and its northern extremities shares a common border with Scotland.  It  has a number of lovely towns in that county including Morpeth, Alnwick (Alnwick Castle of Harry Potter fame), Sea Houses – which has lovely fish and chip shops and remains a huge tourist attraction and in the South is Hexham famed for its Hadrian’s Wall (old roman wall which goes round the town). From the North to the South of Northumberland is about 60miles. The population density in Northumberland is very low – in fact people say there are more sheep in Northumberland than humans and I’m inclined to believe that!

I lived in Morpeth while in Northumberland – a town which I can only characterise as quaint. I have fond memories of the place. Perhaps the one that stands out most in my mind is that all the shops in the town centre close on Wednesday afternoons. Now I only happened on this quirk by chance when I went into town to shop one Wednesday afternoon only to find that the shops were all closed. Well you can imagine my surprise – at a time when most supermarkets such as Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s in the South were opening 24 x7, the fact that the shops on Morpeth high street had all closed on the Wednesday afternoon came as a complete surprise to me. It’s perhaps fair to say that this practice was pervasive in the UK years ago but to see it in practice in the 21st century was indeed an eye opener.

It is also in Morpeth that I experienced my first farmers market. A friend of mine suggested we go to the farmers market which was being held on the Saturday. I must confess I didn’t know what a farmers market was although I very much looked forward to it. In my naivety, I had assumed that this is where the farmers all met up and sold their livestock such as sheep, cows, chickens etc.  So I was ready – bring it on!

On the Saturday morning, I went to collect my friend and we walked to where the farmers market was being held. As we approached we saw loads of folk mingling but I could not see any livestock. I thought perhaps they were penned to the side of the market – so thought nothing of it. When we finally got to the square still I couldn’t see any livestock – I craned my neck looking round the place wondering where the livestock were being held. I think my friend noticed that I was a touch pre-occupied and wondered what the matter was. So I asked him where the livestock were? He was in stiches and of course the joke was lost on me. When he’d had his fill at laughing at my expense, he explained that there were no livestock at a farmers market instead just farm produce and some famers selling meat but definitely no livestock! Of course I now got the joke and joined in a hearty laugh. To cut a long story short my visit to the farmers market was an eye opener for me – and I now know that these farmers markets go on all over the country and are opportunities for people to sell their own products and find out if there is a market for them.

My visit to the farmers market was not wasted though. I ended up buying ostrich meat which my friend’s wife used in preparing a sumptuous meal for us.

So all in all an eventful Saturday morning outing. Now every time I see a farmers market it brings a wry smile to my face!

 

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Back to school

Well, the Christmas holidays are now over and everyone is back to school or work. If you want to see some lovely mementos of the festive season, go to:  ” https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/tgiuk “.  Jack whose parents are from the Congo shares here some lovely insights into life at primary school and gives some good advice.

primary-school-building

 

My primary school life by Jack aged 10

My name is Jack and I go to a school in the east of the city.  Primary school life is difficult at times because of the exams.  I am a bit scared of SATs in Year 6 because I don’t know if I am going to fail or pass.  SATs are the end of year test to see if you are up to standard and they test English, Comprehension, Maths and Reading.  These are the key subjects in the national curriculum 2016 (because the curriculum changes).

In Year 6 (the final year) at our school, you get to go on a five day residential trip and you get to do go-carting, rock climbing and rowing. I am looking forward to this.

The books that make you up to standard are:  Alex Rider, Moby Dick, the Chronicles of Narnia and other classic books.

In the school hall, you get to go on the monkey bars and go on ropes.  Also P.E. is about learning sports. My teacher did a club called curiosity club and he taught us Crab Basketball, that was the funnest game of the year.  When we do Art, we normally use wet paint and we draw pictures and then paint them in, for example, we did a world war 1 painting of people in the trenches.  We also got to tell the class what our background was, I am British and my parents are from the Congo.

I absolutely love science, I think its my strongest subject.  We get to do investigations and see who has the right answer or the wrong answer in our groups. Last term, we did an investigation about shadows, we had to see if we pushed the rubber close to the torch, whether it would get smaller or bigger. Fortunately, our theories were right and we got 6 house points each.  The answer was when you push the rubber forward,the shadow would get bigger as you are pushing the moon towards the sun.

Maths can be quite difficult at times because of algebra, we have to try and use our knowledge to decode the question, a stands for a missing number. Also, I don’t really understand ratio proportion but a useful tool is a maths dictionary.

English is my second strongest subject because you get to be imaginative in writing stories, every week we do a piece of extended writing which is hard work for all of us but we manage to do it.

My best memory of primary school is going to a farm in Year 2, because we got to touch and feed the animals. We also got to play in a huge children’s playground.

Hope you found this useful, I will come back and tell you about secondary school.

 

 

Happy New Year

TGIUK has been celebrating Christmas in the UK, sharing pictures of Christmas food and Christmas lights on Instagram: See; https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/tgiuk/

 We are now on to New Year, and our weather is very traditional at the moment, icy cold and foggy.
In the UK, we traditionally celebrate New Year’s Eve, its  a time to party with friends, Christmas being traditionally the time you spend with family. We drink champagne at midnight and then sing Auld Lang’s Syne. But, what is going on in the rest of the world?  Its particularly nice to think of what is going on in the sunshine.You can find below a description of the celebrations in  Cape Town on 2nd January, a day in the UK,when people are going back to work.  It sounds marvellous.  We would love to know more about your festivals and what makes them fantastic.

Die Tweede Nuwe Jaar

(2nd New Year)

 

One of the things I miss most about my hometown of Cape Town, is the fairly unique event of ‘Tweede Nuwe Jaar’, a cultural event specifically allocated to the so called ‘coloureds’, a minority group whose origins stems from the slave trade from former colonial masters and the Cape Trade route.

There is only one other Carnival equalling it and that is the Rio Carnival, for garishness, pomp and ceremony and an utter revelling in the joy of the moment. One looks forward to “tweede Nuwe Jaar’ with utter aniticipation, trying to recognize and identify old troupes, the excitement on new troups and just the joy of being part of something that is culturally so entrenched in the Cape life cycle.

Please find attached this background piece which I thought absolutely describes the event much better than I could every do. Read it and enjoy. Source:  http://www.capetownmagazine.com/kaapse-klopse and with embellishments and photos.

The Kaapse Klopse

A look into the colourful, cultural Cape Town Klopse and Minstrel Carnival

https://youtu.be/ivqKtHFBeiA

https://youtu.be/EP2Yk-Je9rI

On par with the magnetic vibrancy of Brazil’s Rio Carnival, the Kaapse Klopse, a spirited cultural music and dance celebration, explodes onto the Mother City’s streets in a flurry of colour, song, drumbeats and movement every year in the first week of January

The animated annual New Year’s festival, officially known in English as the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, invites the public to watch as thousands of members of the Cape coloured community (some black individuals take part too), divided into several well-rehearsed minstrel troupes, march through the city’s roads from Zonnebloem to the Bo-Kaap, dressed in gaudy, glittery uniforms; donning face paint, hats and parasols; strumming on banjos; blowing on trumpets; and performing their signature ghoema musical style.

“For spectators, it’s like watching 50 or 60 shows go past you,” Kevin Momberg, CEO of the Cape Town Minstrels Carnival Association, explains, highlighting why the lively procession has become so popular with the masses.

But this arresting one-day street parade, commonly called Tweede Nuwe Jaar (Second New Year) for obvious reasons, and the distinctive backbeat that goes with it, is only one aspect of the broader carnival. What many Capetonians and foreigners don’t realise is that after the open-air celebrations subside, the festivities continue in the form of a major competition that runs every Saturday until mid-February at the Athlone Stadium in the Cape Flats (where most of the participants are from).

 

The lengthy, structured contest sees the various minstrel clubs – there are now over 40, some with more than 1000 members, each of which is identified by a unique colour scheme – compete in a wide range of different categories (best dressed team, best band, combined chorus, male solo, drum major, minstrel song and many more) for trophies, pride and the winning title. While it holds a big entertainment factor for the public, the championship is, in fact, taken very seriously by the troupes, who start practicing their melodies and repertoires many months in advance.

Though, the carnival is certainly not all about the here and now. While it’s a developing current custom that grips club participants in modern times, the Kaapse Klopse is, in fact, steeped in rich history – one that’s unfortunately been quite poorly documented.

 

The colourful history of the Kaapse Klopse

“Some of it is hearsay, some of it is folklore, some of it is even imaginary,” says Kevin, in reference to the many colourful stories that have circulated around the festival’s heritage.

What is well established, though, is that the Tweede Nuwe Jaar street party has origins that reach back into the colonial era when slavery was rife. Local slaves – the ancestors of many of today’s Cape Minstrels – had only one day a year when they would dare to relax and let loose: 2 January, when their masters were sleeping off the debauchery of New Year’s parties the day before. Hence, this date took on great significance as an opportunity for revelry and wild self-expression, and was always marked with vibrant song and dance out in the streets.

When these servants were finally emancipated in the 1830s, their lively freedom-focused festivities were, apparently, incorporated into their customary 2 January celebrations to make for one whopping jubilee centred on liberation, renewal and frivolous fun. Of course, as New Year – a reason to rejoice in any culture – fell around this time, it became a central part of the merriment too.

100-years

 

It seems that the competitions – the first official one was held in 1907 –  then evolved organically as troupes gradually became more structured and organised, and more eager to show off their abilities and pit their displays against those of other teams.

As for the specific style of music and performance that developed, it’s been suggested that the Cape coloureds were influenced by groups of black American minstrels that arrived in the Mother City on ships like the Alabama (hence the famed Malay song ‘Daar Kom Die Alibama’ [There Comes the Alabama]). Not only did the locals latch onto the interesting body art of these energetic musicians, who painted their faces black and white, but they also incorporated elements of the foreigners’ upbeat melodies into their own musical mix – already a blend of African, European and Asian influences – to create the uniquely Capetonian sound of ghoema, as it’s known today.

Interestingly, it’s also likely that the term Coon Carnival, as the Kaapse Klopse was known for years before the name was officially changed to avoid offending people, comes from these visiting performers whose face paint made them look like racoons.

As history plays such an important role, today, the carnival is as much about raucous revelry and entertainment as it is about preserving an age-old custom.

“Tradition is the bottom line – that’s what it’s all about,” says Kevin firmly. “It goes on today because of tradition, and it will go on for the next 100 years because of this too.”

It’s for this reason that the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival remains predominantly associated with the coloured community. While the clubs do welcome those of other races and cultures, for most members, the parade and competition is simply something that’s in their blood – a ritual they learnt from their parents and will pass on to their own children in time.

No doubt then, the Kaapse Klopse troupes’ captivating zest for life and infectious energy will continue to delight residents and tourists alike well into the distant future.

Where to watch the Cape Minstrels perform

Tweede Nuwe Jaar, the colourful street parade that takes place all day on 2 January every year, is the easiest (and most cost-effective) way to catch the Cape Minstrels in action. The troupes march from Keizersgracht Street in Zonnebloem, through Darling and Adderley streets, up Wale Street and into Rose Street in the historic Bo-Kaap, where the parade comes to an end; anyone is invited to line these avenues and take in the festival for FREE. Annually, hundreds of thousands of spectators stand along the 7-km route, some even sleeping there the night before to get a good spot, so the atmosphere is always
On par with the magnetic vibrancy of Brazil’s Rio Carnival, the Kaapse Klopse, a spirited cultural music and dance celebration, explodes onto the Mother City’s streets in a flurry of colour, song, drumbeats and movement every year in the first week of January

The animated annual New Year’s festival, officially known in English as the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, invites the public to watch as thousands of members of the Cape coloured community (some black individuals take part too), divided into several well-rehearsed minstrel troupes, march through the city’s roads from Zonnebloem to the Bo-Kaap, dressed in gaudy, glittery uniforms; donning face paint, hats and parasols; strumming on banjos; blowing on trumpets; and performing their signature ghoema musical style.

“For spectators, it’s like watching 50 or 60 shows go past you,” Kevin Momberg, CEO of the Cape Town Minstrels Carnival Association, explains, highlighting why the lively procession has become so popular with the masses.

But this arresting one-day street parade, commonly called Tweede Nuwe Jaar (Second New Year) for obvious reasons, and the distinctive backbeat that goes with it, is only one aspect of the broader carnival. What many Capetonians and foreigners don’t realise is that after the open-air celebrations subside, the festivities continue in the form of a major competition that runs every Saturday until mid-February at the Athlone Stadium in the Cape Flats (where most of the participants are from).

The lengthy, structured contest sees the various minstrel clubs – there are now over 40, some with more than 1000 members, each of which is identified by a unique colour scheme – compete in a wide range of different categories (best dressed team, best band, combined chorus, male solo, drum major, minstrel song and many more) for trophies, pride and the winning title. While it holds a big entertainment factor for the public, the championship is, in fact, taken very seriously by the troupes, who start practicing their melodies and repertoires many months in advance.

Though, the carnival is certainly not all about the here and now. While it’s a developing current custom that grips club participants in modern times, the Kaapse Klopse is, in fact, steeped in rich history – one that’s unfortunately been quite poorly documented.

 

Yakov Ben Avraham –  Wishing everyone a prosperous, healthy and promising New Year for 2017