see ya later suckers

there wont be any blogging here for a few days, we’re off on the train to France tomorrow – for a spot of holidaying.Train to London, Eurostar and TGV were the greenest (and cheapest) way we could find of having a family friendly sunshine filled holiday in a foreign country, if you have any suggestions for another realistic option, please leave them in the comments.

In between now and then I have quite a bit to do, so I’d better get on with really.

Just in case you’re interested, I’ve made over the Emmaus Encounters site, and it’s now looking a lot better than it was. Still have to populate the content side of things somewhat, but it’s in much better shape looks-wise.

So anyway, better get on with it, after all I’m reliably informed that there’s another rapture on its way.

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World music in Grimsby

Baka beyond are playing tonight as a five-piece, should be excellent. St James’ church, 7.30, tickets are £12 on the door.

It will be a shame if there are any empty seats, get along if you can – although I know there is some serious competition with Hayseed Dixie playing just down the road.

If you’re interested in the band, or the people that have inspired them, and provided much of the material for the albums and songs which have flowed over the last couple of decades, visit their youtube channel.

Here’s a good one as a taster, got to love that Yelli….

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I love India.

In fact, I love Asia as a whole, but as I’m in India right now, I’m reminded of its endearing idiosyncracies. For instance, the way their approach to English punctuation is often the opposite to ours, wheras the English put unwanted  apostrophes everywhere, Indians often miss them out altogether. As a good example I drove past “Anus Beauty Parlour “the other day, actually the parlour belongs to Anu, where’s Lynne Truss when you need her?

But its not just my patronising attitudes to cheerful disregard of punctuation which make me like it here, it is a genuinely great place, with lots of amazing people. People who make the best of a difficult situation in many cases.

I am always particularly impressed by Indian drivers, who I regard as some of the best drivers in the world. Yes I know the traffic here is horrendous, with roads shared by motorvehicles, bikes, carts, mad people, animals and pot holes, but that doesnt make the drivers bad drivers! Rather it makes them extraordinarily good drivers. How they manage to drive on these roads is beyond me, the spatial and traffic awareness is incredible – yes they do sometimes get it wrong (always ask for an older/experienced driver) with tragic consequences, but I honestly think that these guys are some of the canniest and cleverest drivers ever.

Much like China, India is often looked down upon as ‘primitive’ by supposed developed nations like the UK, but just as China’s industrial revolution came before ours and should really have eclipsed ours, so India has been developing forms of technology which are much more impressive than ours. The classic example being the lunch deliveries in Mumbai, which are effectively run on a bar-code system and work with amazing efficiency, despite the characteristic appearance of chaos.

There is a degree of cultural snobbery in the west which sees the apparent danger and chaos in a place like India, as symbols of backwardness. This will have to change as India and its cold war rival China take centre stage in world politics and economics in the next couple of decades.

there is still a lot of comedy here though, and I’ll leave the last word to the incredulous American lady who sat near me at dinner the other night. In a shrill southern squawk she announced to her colleagues, “yesterday I saw a family of four on a motorcycle, today I saw two men and a pig!”

Organic cotton in China?

On my visits to India this year, I’ve been particularly interested to talk to Indian people about their perspective on China, with whom, many feel, the Indians are engaging in a new cold war.

Of course my particular interest (not withstanding the wider geo-politics) is in textiles and raw materials, especially cotton. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Mumbai Bio Fach for a short time on my last trip, and was fascinated to see the scope of organic and sustainable products on offer from India. But as yet the potential is largely untapped, it is seen as an export market, not a domestic one – a situation which is likely to change rapidly I predict.

India, like China, produces lots of cotton. In the area of organic cotton at least India has the jump on China. The Indians also have the benefit of qualifying for potential Fair Trade accreditation, wheras Chinese cotton is unable to apply because of the government’s human rights record.

What China can do though, is move incredibly fast.

So when the Chinese do decide to go for Organic cotton in a big way, which they are bound to, it will be very big. Some of my friends are already leading the way in terms of pioneering large scale organic cotton farming projects in China, and they seem to be nearing the end of the red tape which has held them back so far.

The situation in China is very serious, if you want a good example of how destructive conventional cotton can be to an environment you can look to China where huge irrigation and chemical inputs have contributed to desertification on a massive scale. Chinese cotton, like central Asian cotton, while cheap to the consumer – exacts a high price from those caught in the tail end of the production cycle.One government official went so far as to claim that the price of environmental damage to land and health offset the country’s 10% economic growth rate. This report makes sobering reading.

It’s no suprise then that moves are apparently afoot among Chinese government to press ahead with organic cotton farming trials. And you just know that when it happens, it will of course be massive. But so far my Indian friends arent too concerned, they have an established foot hold in the organic cotton market, they have a number of well established producer groups who meet ethical standards, and have proven to be socially and environmentally beneficial to their communities, and they have a manufacturing base which is in some sectors keeping up with demand.

I must say though that they do seem a lot stronger in knit production (tee-shirts and so on) than wovens (formal shirts, trousers) which is perhaps a reflection on the demand rather than the background of the producers. Organic cotton seems to sell much more readily in fashionable teeshirts and cutesy baby clothes than it does in formal and work wear – this is perhaps a reflection on price and fashions rather than anything more serious.

But yes dear reader, expect to see organic cotton coming on strong from China in the next few years, it’s about time. And for those still buying new garments in conventional cotton, please remember that in doing so you are participating in environmental havoc and destruction. The choices are there, you can buy organic or second hand if you need to buy at all.

Packed up

MP3 player – well loaded with The Clash, various World Music artists, and Earworms Mandarin Chinese.

Headphones – 1 pair

Books – three paper back, one hard back.

Note pad – 1

Pens – 3

Food – mostly eaten already.

Shoes – 1 pair (brown)

Sandals – 2 pairs

Shorts – 1 pair

Smart trousers – 1 pair

Travelling trousers – 1 pair

Pants – 6 pairs

Shirts – 6

Socks – 3 pairs

Tie – 1

Wash bag – 1 containing: razor, shaving brush, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, ear plugs, nail brush.

Sunglasses – 1 pair

Hat – 1

Camera – 1

Laptop – 1

Electrical Sundries – adapter, phone charger, laptop power cord

Mobile phone – 1

Passport – 1

Wallet – 1

E-tickets  – 2

To me that seems like a lot of stuff for one week.

Going to India on Sunday

Strictly work – no pleasure involved, I will resolutely choose to dislike the lovely food, beautiful scenery and hot weather.

I’m going to visit some clothing factories and suppliers that are registered with fair trade in the UK, to see what kind of standards they keep, and importantly what stories they have to tell.

I find that quality control is a consistent problem with these small producers, and it requires a good deal of investment from the UK end if you arent going to go with a big soul-less producer. I prefer to support the smaller producers who are intentionally working to make people’s lives better.

Hopefully there’ll be some opportunity to blog while I’m there, only away for a few days at any rate.

back from Wales

Sorry not to have been very communicative over the last few days, we were in Wales.  We scooted down there for a mini-holiday (half term), and to allow Kel to prepare her trip to India, for which she set off on Sunday.

We didnt really get much holidaying in, apart from anything else I had to spend a day getting her visa from the clutches of the processing centre who thought it would be fun to hold on to it until the very last moment possible!

But it was nice to see a few friends again, and we had a cool flat to stay in which was great.

Expect the usual inane drivel to recommence… in fact it already has!