Friday, 31 August 2012

1933 - Letter A

BFTF has been fascinated by the contents of a multi-volume 1933 Odhams Press publication entitled "The British Encyclopedia". The volumes provide a glimpse into the the way the world looked at that time and BFTF thought you, gentle reader, might be interested to read a few extracts from some of the somtimes surprising, sometimes shocking, sometimes sad entries. See here for extracts from other sections of the encyclopaedia

Please note that these are only tiny extracts and are not meant to be a summary of the entire encyclopedia entry.

Aerodrome
…In the London area the chief aerodromes are Croydon, Heston and Hendon..

Afghanistan
…On account of his [Afghan ruler Dost Mohammad’s] dealings with the Russians the British resolved to dethrone him and restore Shah Shuja, a former ruler. In April 1839, a British army under Sir John Heane entered Afghanistan , occupied Kabul, and placed Shah Shuja on the throne, a force of 8000 being left to support the new sovereign…

…The Afghans soon organised a widespread insurrection, which came to a head on 2nd Nov 1841 when Burnes [assistant envoy] and a number of British officers, besides women and children, were murdered… The other British leaders now made a treaty with the Afghans…agreeing to withdraw the forces from the country, while the Afghans were to furnish them with provisions and escort them from the country…

…On 6th Jan 1842 the British began left Kabul and began their most disastrous retreat. The cold was intense, they had almost no food - for the treacherous Afghans did not fulfil their promises - and day after day were assailed by bodies of the enemy. By the 13th, 26,000 persons, including camp-followers, women and children, were destroyed…only one man, Dr Brydon, reached Jalalabad which, along with Kanadahar, was still held by the British…

In a few months Gen Pollock, with a fresh army from India, retook Kabul and soon finished the war…Dost Mohammed again obtained the throne of Kabul and acquired extensive power in Afghanistan. He joined with the Sikhs against the British and afterwards made an offensive and defensive alliance with the latter. He died in 1863, having nominated his son Shere Ali his successor.

Shere Ali entered into friendly relations with the British, but in 1878, having repulsed a British envoy and refused to receive a British mission (a Russian mission being meantime at his court), was was declared against him and the British troops entered Afghanistan.[resulting in a treaty giving the British control of Afghanistan’s foreign policy]

In 1921 Britain recognised the independence of Afghanistan…

Africa
The great races of which the population of Africa mainly consists are the Eastern Hamites, the Semites, the Negroes and the Bantus…

…In religion a great proportion of the inhabitants are heathens of the lowest type; Mohammedanism numbers a large number of adherents in North Africa and is rapidly spreading in the Sudan; Christianity prevails only among the Copts, the Abyssinians and the natives of Madagascar…

…Great areas in Africa have been apportioned among the European Powers as protectorates of spheres of influence…

Aga Khan
...The hereditary chief of the Ismaillite sect of the Mohammedans. His real name was Hassna Ali Shan and he was born in 1800. [He] settled in India and supported the British in their wars against the Sikhs and the Afghans. He died in 1881. His grandson, Aga Khan III rendered great service to Britain during the Great War…

Alexandrian Library

..The largest and most famous of all the ancient collections of books, founded by Ptolemy Sotor (d.283BC), King of Egypt…at its most flourishing period it is said to have numbered 700,000 volumes, accommodated in two different buildings…

[one collection] was burned during Julius Caesar’s siege of the city..

[the other collection existed until the building housing it] was gutted (A.D 391) by a fanatical crowd of Christians and its literary treasures destroyed or scattered.

The library was again accumulated but was burned by the Arabs when they captured the city under Caliph Omar in 641. Amru, the captain of the Caliphs army, would have been willing to spare the library, but Omar is said to have disposed of the matter in the famous words “If these writings of the Greeks agree with the Koran they are useless; if they disagree they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed”. This story, however, which rests solely on the authority of Abulfaragius, a writer who lived six centuries later, is now generally discredited.

Algeria
…The Moors and the Jews, who had been driven out of Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella at the end of the 15th century, settled in large numbers in Algeria and revenged themselves on their persecutors by the practice of piracy…

Alien
[Entry relates solely to people who were newcomers to a country and did not have full citizenship rights - no mention of alien as meaning “from another plantet”]

Alkali
From the Arabic “al-qali”, the ashes of the plant from which soda was first obtained.

…the Alkalis may be regarded as water in which part of the Hydrogen is replaced by a metallic radical [possibly the best explanation of the term BFTF has ever read!]

Almeh
The name given in Egypt to a class of girls whose profession is to sing for the amusement of the upper classes, as distinguished from the “Gawasi” who perform before the lower classes. They perform at feasts and other entertainments…

Alpha particle
…their charge is twice that of an electron and their mass is four times that of a hydrogen atom…

America
…The American Indians [are] now forming a very small portion of the population , especially in N. America, where the white population has almost exterminated them.

These people [American Indians] are divided into branches, some of which have displayed a considerable aptitude for civilisation. When the Europeans became aquainted with the new World [which was] inhabited by populations that had made great advances in many things that pertain to civilised life, dwelling in large and well built cities under a settled form of government.

Anglo-Saxons
…The scir-gerefa (shire-reeve or sheriff) was an important functionary...

Anthropology
…of the existing races the aboriginal Australian is much the most primitive and represents the survival of the earliest type of homo-sapiens…

Anti-Semitism
…The movement assumed vast proportions about 1880 and manifested itself in various countries, especially Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany , Rumania and France...

…In western Russia there was a great outburst against the Jews in 1881 in which men, women and children were slaughtered The Government of the Tsar , by its anti-Jewish policy, may be said to have sanctioned this murderous outbreak…

…in 1933 an organised anti-semite campaign on a large scale was carried out in Germany under the leadership of Herr Adolf Hitler…

Arabia
…The Wahabis appeared towards the end of the eighteenth century and took an important part in the political affairs of Arabia, but their progress was interrupted by Mohammed Ali Pasha of Egypt and they suffered a complete defeat by Ibrahim Pasha…

[Arabia returned to Turkish control around 1840]

…On 9th June 1916, the Grand Shereef of Mecca declared himself independent of the Turkish government and an Arab revolt spread rapidly. The Grand Shereef Hussein then announced to the Muslim world that the Shereefate of Mecca was henceforth independent and on 4th Nov 1916 he had himself formally proclaimed King, or Sultan, of Arabia…

Arabs
…Their features are well cut, the nose straight, the forehead high. They are naturally active, intelligent and courteous; and their character is marked by temperance, bravery and hospitality…

Arnold
…An urban district and market town of England, Nottinghamshire, 4 miles north east of Nottingham, with lace and hosiery manufactures etc. It has a church built in the twelfth century, and a tower dating from the fifteenth century and restored. Pop (1931) 14,470

Asbestos
…A remarkable and highly useful mineral. . . in modern times it has been manufactured into incombustible cloth, gloves, felt , paper etc. [No mention of danger Asbestos poses to the lungs]

Asthma
…It seldom proves fatal except as inducing dropsy, consumption etc…

Atoms
…The view held at present is that the atom consists of a massive central nucleus of positive electricity, round which minute charges of negative electricity, called electrons, revolve at enormous speeds …

The World in 1933

BFTF has been fascinated by the contents of a multi-volume 1933 Odhams Press publication entitled "The British Encyclopedia".

The volumes provide a glimpse into the the way the world looked at that time and BFTF thought you, gentle reader, might be interested to read a few extracts from some of the somtimes surprising, sometimes shocking, sometimes sad entries.

NB: This is very much a work in progress and it will take some time before all the letters have been covered.

Letter A
Letter B
Letter C
Letter M
Letter N
Letter O
Letter P

Recipes

This blog might seem a strange place to find recipes, but reason they are here is not so much because they are part of any "do-gooder" type activity as the fact that BFTF has a habit of losing the bits of paper and notebooks on which recipes have been written on. . .

Easy Rice and Sardines
Easy tasty tomato sauce
Keema Salan
Easy Fruit Dessert
Easy Coconut Macaroons
Gently Sauteed Potatoes
Edible Brussel Sprouts
Easy Mushrooms
The easiest dish in the world
Easy Mackerel Curry
The BFTF Washing-Up Index
Potato Dauphinoise
Plum Compote
Mini-Muffins
250g Biccies

And, of course, there is also the unique BFTF "Washing-up Index"

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Paralympic vs Olympic team sizes

Watching the Paralympics opening ceremony I wondered what the size of a countries Paralympics team, compared to it's able-bodied Olympic team, said about the values of that country.

Perhaps having a relatively large paralympic team demonstrates that a country cares about ALL its citizens?

Perhaps, in contrast, having a relatively small paralympic team demonstrates that a country has a very narrow view of who has worth in the country

Interestingly, comparing the two numbers (paralympians vs olympians) for a country cuts through a lot of the variables like wealth, sporting tradition, conflict etc.

So BFTF took the top twenty(ish) counties (based on number of olympians sent), together with a few wild card entries that seemed interesting and worked out the numbers. ..

Here is the resulting graph.



Is interesting. No?

This is part of a three-part series on the Olympics:
Comparison of Olypmpic and Paralympic Team Sizes
Olypmics and Paralympics 2012
The Special Olympics

Data from :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Summer_Olympics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Summer_Paralympics

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Himmah Eid Festival Aug 2012

Saturday 25th August saw Nottingham Hyson Green ASDA teaming up with Himmah, a grassroots charity helping the homeless and destitute in Nottingham, to hold an “Eid Festival” fundraising event.

Located along the front of the store, the Festival featured live entertainment, food stalls and information points to give shoppers a “mini-fair” experience as part of their shopping trip.

On the games front, the Festival gave shoppers to have a bash at Giant Chess or Snakes ‘n Ladders games - always sure to delight a youngster!

While those wanting to tickle their tastebuds could sample the fine fare of Alain Jobs “Nkono” African Street Food, or opt for all-round light lunch experts Salt N Pepper - with the possibility of a dessert from Divine Cakes that was simply, well, divine…


Food - the choice is yours !

Arts and Crafts aficionados were not neglected either, with stalls featuring ethnic Henna tattoos, Hijabs and Jewellery.

Himmah are keen on working with other organisations and it was not surprising, therefore, to see that the New Art Exchange were given a platform to tell shoppers about the exciting work they were doing.

The National Cancer Action Team “Champions of Change” were also there raising awareness of the early signs and symptoms of cancer, as well as listening to the views of people from all communities to ensure that NHS cancer services meet the needs of all communities.

And Muslim Hands, a charity who work providing sustainable relief in disaster zones across the world, as well as sponsoring thousands of orphans and running many schools in the developing world, were also on hand to explain what they do.

But is was the live entertainment that was most peoples highlight for the day, and this included a display by Mohammed Ali, a graffiti artist known as “Aerosol Arabic

Aerosol Arabic doesn't mess about !

Also featured were Himmah event regulars the Circus Clowns, who provided unicycling, baton juggling, balloon modelling fun for the youngsters

And acoustic entertainment came Islamic artists Shaam as well as a number of other groups from around the world, including African Bongo drummers Unique World.<br />
Shaam

Unique World

The event was reported on the Nottingham Post website, including a charming comment by 72 yr old Mary Brinklow that “We have to share our culture, so this was an event for everybody”

The event was sponsored by Asda and the New Art Exchange and managed to raise some £500 which will be used by Himmah and its partners to help support homeless families as well as supporting Himmah’s soup kitchen.


Related Posts:
Himmah Jubilee Festival 2012
Himmah Family Festival 2012
Homelessness and Hope Commission
Citizens UK and Himmah (really interesting interview, this one)

(Incidentally, Himmah are possibly the FIRST Muslim organisation in Nottingham to practice what Islam preaches and print their flyers on sustainably sourced paper!!)



Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Imam said. . .

Thought it might be nice to give a flavour of some of the positive stuff that Imams say, particularly when they might have a wider appeal.

The following are comments that BFTF has heard from Imams (from a number of different mosques). Hope you find them interesting.

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"7 Things a kid needs to hear
A local Imam posted this image on Facebook recently :

What  kids need to hear

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"Organ donation is a gesture of generosity.
Extracts from this article

"The purpose of this article is to dispel fears and concerns of the Muslim community with regards to organ donation. I believe it is a responsibility of Muslim scholars to show that organ transplant is compatible with the teachings of Islam and encourage Muslims to register as organ donors."

"...Most Muslim countries have a National Council of Scholars that present Islamic viewpoints on many contemporary issues, many of the national councils have accepted the permissibility of organ transplants. Al Azhar Academy of Egypt, the Jordanian Council of scholars, some scholars from Pakistan like Maulana Muhammad Hussain Naeemi and the Iranian Council of Shia scholars, Islamic Fiqh Council of Jeddah, the European Council for Fatwa and Research, the UK Shariah Council, the National fatwa Council of Malaysia, the Islamic medical Association of North America, the Islamic and religious Council of Singapore and the Fatwa committee of Kuwait..."

"...Muslims believe in the spiritual creation of life, which invests it with inviolable dignity and sanctity. On the other hand, we also believe in the right of a sick person to be given opportunity to improve his or her quality of life by organ donation. Now that organ transplant is a relatively successful medical procedure and adds enormously to the quality of life of sick people we should accept it just as you would be willing to receive an organ if you were ill..."

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Jan2016: Helping a troubled youth
Via the National Zakat Foundation

"Ali was sinking further and further into the depths of despair. His drug problem was no longer a private matter but one that everyone who came to visit his parents would discuss at great length with a reprimanding tone...Eventually, the social pressures overcame them and Ali’s family decided to disown him..."

"...Circumstances forced him to pluck up the courage to seek help at his local mosque. Unsurprisingly, community elders present at the mosque shunned. However, the young Imam at the mosque was pleased to see him and could see that Ali genuinely wanted to change. As Ali was unemployed, the chances of finding a Landlord to accept his tenancy were slim, as they would require proof that he would be able to keep up with rent payments. The Imam initially gave Ali money for essentials from his own pocket but knowing this was not a long term solution he knew that he had to get Ali back on his own two feet. He managed to find a place for Ali to stay through a personal contact. To help pay for his rent deposit, the Imam contacted National Zakat Foundation (NZF) and made an application for a hardship grant..."

"...With compassion and timely support, Ali has managed to turn his life around. He has maintained contact with his family and would like to rekindle the relationship with them in the near future."


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Dec 2015: Neighbours
Interesting sermon from an Imam today (25th Dec) talking about:
i)The respect that Muslims should have for Jesus and his disciples
ii) That the UK has a great tradition of volunteers, that Muslims should spend more time volunteering and that volunteering has many benefits for the volunteer (increased confidence, sense of satisfaction, technical skills)
iii) That Muslims need to be accepting of others and to be wary of the narrow minded attitudes of extremists.
iv) That the mosque was working with a Christian organisation to provide a Christmas Day meal for some of the homeless in Nottingham.

Also worth mentioning that, after the prayers, there were free meals available at the mosque for anyone who wanted one. This happens every Friday.

Free Community Meal at a local Mosque every Friday

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Jul2014: Neighbours
Just heard a short talk by a local Imam who asked Muslims to "give a thought to your neighbours, do you know their names? Those to the left, to the right and opposite you? It's really important that we get to know our neighbours..." adding that "..your faith is dependant on your relationship with your neighbours" and that it was important to "be kind, caring and loving to your neighbours".

And finally, that it was a good thing if you remembered to "share your food, no matter how plain, with your neighbours"

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Apr2014: Can Muslims be British?
An email circular from a local Imam asked this question, and then responded with :
Of course they can!.....

and then discussing a fascinating CRE report on Britishness (see here)

The Imam closed out by asking :
The big question is how do we promote ‘Britishness’? How do we develop and nurture ‘Britishness’? Amongst the eight dimensions of ‘Britishness’ the most promising is the development of values and attitudes. Here is a scope for nurturing moral values of compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, justice and respect for others. The Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “On the day of judgment, nothing will weigh heavier upon the scales than good character” (Abu Dawud). Let us work on building good character in our children, so we have just, loving, caring and respectful British Muslim citizens.


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Feb2014: 12 ways to motivate children
An email newsletter from a local Imam contained some advice on how to encourage and motivate children. A condensed version is the message is shown below:

1. Help children choose their own goals
2. Help children visualise the positive results of achieving their own goals & the negative results of not achieving their goals
3. Remember the power of praise
4. Expose children to a variety of activities
5. Believe your children can achieve great things
6. Reward your children
7. Expose your children to people you admire
8. Be enthusiastic
9. Use contracts
10. Encouragement from peers
11. Tender, Touching & Listening
12. Pray for your children

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Feb 2104 : Embracing Differences and Promoting Tolerance
An email newsletter from a local Imam contained the following comments:

"...the Quran explains the path to success and the path to failure by mentioning the three characteristics of successful people, these are:

1. Generosity: This is to give to others without them asking for it, to provide support, service and provisions to the needy. The generous give these out of love and kindness. Parents are generous to their children as they feed, clothe and care for them.

2. God Consciousness (Taqwa): This means to fear God and be aware of the Lord’s presence all the time and in all places. This God consciousness is expressed through prayer, charity and works of goodness.

3. Openness: This means accepting all that is good and beautiful. This is about recognising the good ideas and concepts such as good habits and practices etc.

By developing these characteristics of generosity, God consciousness and openness, British Muslims can play an important role in society. These characteristics really broaden the outlook of a person. This makes it possible to accept different opinions and views. They encourage tolerance of people who are different. As we integrate into the wider society (speaking English, wearing suits and ties, eating fish and chips, supporting Manchester United) and begin to live like the British what will distinguish us from the rest? Taqwa – this will be the hallmark of a true British Muslim....

The Quran then turns to three characteristics which are opposite of these namely:
- Miserliness opposite of generosity
- Heedlessness opposite of Taqwa
- Close mindedness opposite of openness

By comparing good characteristics with the evil ones it’s emphasising the need for developing good traits. Let’s resolve to embrace the good in British Society: Civil rights, democracy, freedom of religion, justice, hard-working, creativity and tolerance. Historically Muslims have always comfortably lived in multicultural societies, contributing to the society and benefiting it by displaying the beautiful moral and spiritual values of Islam."

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Unselfishness (Feb 2013)
BFTF happened visited a local mosque recently to talk to the Imam about holding a second "Bring A Tin" event there and heard him giving a short talk to the yougnsters at the Quran class. The talk was about "unselfishness" and it was quite touching to see the way he engaged with the kids (who were perhaps 7-11yrs old). After explaining what it meant to be unselfish, the Imam asked the kids if they had any examples from their own lives.

One child said that he once went shopping with his parents and had two sweets so he gave one to his mum and one to his dad.

Another child said that they had leant an item of clothing to a friend who had forgotton theirs for PE.

The Imam commended these children but added, with respect to the latter comment, that the children should take care of their own needs first when it came to schooling and ensure that they had the kid they needed when they went to school, saying that they should "never, ever, do anything that will make your education suffer".

The Imam added that examples of unselfishness and being considerate were opening the door for someone, offering to carry the bags of someoene or doing chores when your parents are tired.

A small lad, noting these words, piped up to remark that he had once helped his parents by doing the laundry and not only folding the clothes as they came out of the washing machine, but also folding them, winningly, as he put them INTO the washing machine.

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The wise non-Muslim neighbour (Aug 2012)
Parking can be a big issue at many mosques, especially as latecomers have a tendency to put getting to prayers on time above parking courteously.

Heard an Imam recounting how someone had (in this case unknowingly) parked in such a way as to block access to house close to the mosque. The houseowner had discussed this with the Imam, in a perfectly reasonable tone is should be stressed and asked what was the point of people praying if they were parking was causing difficulties for neighbours, surely this inconsiderate behaviour would negate the rewards of their prayer? The Imam had to agree and pointed out to the congregation that it was a shame that it was taking a non-muslim to teach Muslims how to behave.

The same householder also mentioned that people were talking loudly in the street as they walked home after late evening prayers. Is this what Islam teaches? he asked rhetorically, to wake sleeping people up as you walk home from the mosque? Again, the Imam agreed that this was bad manners on the part of those talking in the street. And again he told the congregation in the mosque that it was a shame a non-Muslim had to make these very valid points, telling the congregation that they had responsibilities to their neighbours and one of these was not to disturb them.

NB: Just to be clear, the title of this note does not mean that there is anything unusual about non-Muslims being wise - as any glance at the list of Nobel Prize Winners will reveal.

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The Three T's (Aug 2012)
Heard an Imam call on the congregation to offer their community at least one of the "Three T's" - Time, Talent and Treasure.

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Where is the Upside? (Aug 2012)
Was talking to an Imam (at a relatively new mosque) about their relations with their local non-Muslim neighbours and mentioned that, for the neighbours, there was no "upside" to the presence of the mosque, and wondered whether the mosque should consider ways in which it cobute to the local community (Muslim and non-Muslim alike). The Imam commented that he "really wanted to offer something practical to the community" and asked for suggestions as to what services might be of most use to them, and could be done in a professional way.

BBC Factual Programmes Survey

Dear All,

I’m doing a small survey to assess people’s views of some aspects of BBC factual programmes and hope you can help my by watching a couple of minutes of iplayer before 25th August and answering some questions.

The programme I'm using as a vehicle for this survey is called “The First World War from Above” and is a really interesting account of the devastation of the front lines in WW1 as viewed from the air. A link is shown below (it’s not the iplayer one, sorry)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vyrzh

What I am hoping I can persuade you to do is to watch the programme from around 41min in to 44min in (a section that looks at the effect of shelling on Passchendaele) – please watch the section only once - and answer the following five questions :

1) Overall, how do you feel about the audio commentary?
a) Good
b) Bad
c) Indifferent

2) Overall, how do you feel about the visual presentation?
a) Good
b) Bad
c) Indifferent

3) Overall, how do you feel about the balance between the time the images were on screen and the time the “talking heads” were on screen?
a) Too much talking heads
b) Too much images
c) About right

4) Regarding the time the photos of Passchendaele before and after the attack were on screen, do you think the photos:
a) Were on screen too long.
b) Were on screen not long enough
c) Were on screen for about the right time

5) Regarding the use of hand held photos and camerawork vs rigidly held photos and camerawork (i.e photo on a flat surface and camera directly above it), would you :
a) Prefer hand-held
b) Prefer rigidly held
c) Don’t mind either way

Don’t worry, I’m not going to use anyones names, but I might send the results to the BBC if they are interesting.

Please put your responses in a comment to this post, or via Twitter / Facebook / email

Many thanks, in advance !

Note : Question 5 modified to improve clarity

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Eid Mubarek!

With the Celebration of Eid al Fitr upon us (and with all UK Muslims unusually celebrating it on the same day) BFTF thought it might be worth posting a little note about Ramadan, for the non-Muslim audience, on the effect that the change of the dates of Ramadan from year to year has...

The month of Ramadan moves backwards approximately 10 days every year, which has the effect of subtly changing its character with each passing year.

Only a few years ago, Ramadan was in the autumn, and memories of it are associated in my mind with falling leaves, windy weather and a rush to get home in time for Iftar (the breaking of the fast at sunset).

This year, Ramadan sits very much in the middle of summer and the longer days mean that there is no problem in getting home from work in time - but on the other hand, the night prayers end at midnight.

Talking to friends and family suggests that many people have simply stayed up all night until the morning prayer at 3-4am and then had a quick lie-in before getting up for their working day. Certainly Twitter has been alive all night every night during the month!

For people above a certain age, this is the second, or perhaps even third time that they have experienced Ramadan at this time of year, and such people enjoy the right to berate youngster on how “in their day” they would spend all day toiling in the fields / working in the mill / playing football (delete as appropriate) as opposed to the softies of today who are utterly unable to perform the slightest physical exercise during the daylight hours of Ramadan.

And even for relative old timers, there are still new experiences to be had - such as the joy of seeing ones children enthusiastically participating in Ramadan, or of setting up new community initiatives, or of taking advantage of new technology to add an extra dimension to the Ramadan experience.

Or, as in this authors case, the simple discovery that dates and fresh pineapple was a most delicious way to break the fast!

So to all BFTF's readers - EID MUBAREK !!

Muslim Communities Facilitator

Nottingham City Council had from around 2009 to 2011, a person in the role of "Muslim Communities Facilitator". BFTF was hugely chuffed to see someone in this role, as it offered a way for ordinary Muslims to engage with the Muslim "leadership" in Nottingham at the periodic "steering group" meetings that they would hold. This was because there were to be a number of community leaders and other stakholders at the meetings.

According to the council webpage for the Facilitator (which has since been taken down), the Facilitator will be “working with Nottingham's Muslim communities to help strengthen and support them in becoming part of a better, more inclusive Nottingham.” and that the Facilitator encourages people to “suggest an item for discussion” at steering group meetings. Additionally, the Muslim Communities Facilitator "can provide more information on ways of getting involved with the work going on in Nottingham, and would also be keen to hear if there are additional issues or priorities that should be considered.

BFTF has raised a number of issues with the facilitator (sometimes via email, sometimes via phone, sometimes both - with responses as shown below:

Aug 2011 - Woodland Trust
Asked to raise the example of The Woodland Trust as an example of an area where the Muslim community can find common ground with the wider society, show a better image of Islam, encourage their congregations to visit our local woodlands and show their congregations that there are non-Muslim organisations that should be supported.
Response: No response received.

Aug 2011 - Community Fund
Asked to publicise the work being done by by Himmah Nottingham in the Community Fund Project. This project can help to combat the perception amongst wider society that Muslim do not want to help anyone other than Muslims and are just interested in asking for special treatment for themselves. The project also sends out the message to the Muslim community that this kind of voluntary work is a commendable act.
Response: No response received.

May 2011 - Biased Media
Asked that the issue of the lack of activity by Nottinghams mosques in responding to Islamophobic content in the media at the next meeting. Offered to help with drafting of emails and letters.
Response: No response received.

May 2011 - Space for women at Nottinghams mosques
Asked whether it was expected that all mosques in Nottingham should allow access to women and, if so, was this actually the case? Also asked for some reassurance that no mosque in Nottingham would treat women in the way that Miriam was treated (See link above)?
Response: No response received.

2010-2011 - Radio Interview
Requested (on a number of occasions) for someone from the Equalities and Diversities Team to talk about the activities of the Muslim Communties facilitator on Radio Dawn (Nottingham's Muslim community radio station)
Response: Whilst the team have said that this was of interest, they did not actually commit to taking part in an interview.

2010-2011 - Email newsletters
Requested (on a number of occasions) for help with the email newsletter that I run – in particular a list of email addresses of the various mosques in Nottingham to improve communication between them.
Response: Having been stalled for the best part of a year, the team said they did not have a comprehensive list and that I should go elsewhere for this information.

2010-2011 - Intransigent Mosques
A number of young volunteers at mosques in Nottingham had said that that some mosque committees actively prevent them from undertaking events such as open days. Asked young Muslim volunteers should do when faced with such problems.
Response: No response received.

Jun 2010 - Gaza
Asked to raise the issue of Mosques lobbying against the killings on the Gaza Flotilla as a means of encouraging community activism.
Response: No response received.

Jun 2010 - Imams on a Hill
Asked to raise the "Imans on a Hill" project as something that would have multiple benefits for the Muslim community in terms of encouraging Imams to talk to each other, practice what they preach re excersise and showing unity. Imams had shown interest but would not commit to a date.
Response: No response received, but mentioned in a conversation a year later

Jun 2010 - Mayfest
Asked to raise the Nottingham University Public Open day as a common cause where Mosques can encourage Muslims to participate with the wider society in a day of fun and learning.
Response: No response received.

Jun 2010 - Acid Attacks
Asked to raise the issue of acid attacks (a spate of which were reported in the media at the time, not necessarily Muslim related) and suggest the Imams condemn this on a Friday Khutbah.
Response: No response received.

BFTF's last communication with the department (in Nov 2011) followed a lengthy phone call where BFTF asked why the response had been so dismal :

"Thank you for taking the time to talk to me a few weeks ago about the issues I have raised for discussion at the Muslim Communities Steering Group. As discussed, I do not appear to have had any significant response to any of these. This is particularly dissapointing given the comment on the Notts Council Website that says "Our Muslim Communities Facilitator can provide more information on ways of getting involved with the work going on in Nottingham, and would also be keen to hear if there are additional issues or priorities that should be considered".

If I recall correctly, you said that a line should be drawn under these and that you would endeavour to provide a better response in the future.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that one reason I am bringing these issues to your door is that there is no other organisation to represent Muslims in Nottingham - or at least no organisation that will reliably respond to a question or request for help from an ordinary member of the Muslim community.

We also discussed the possibility of someone from your department taking part in an interview on Radio Dawn - something that I have been requesting for the last, I think, two years. You said that this was a reasonable request and that you would discuss this with your colleagues to determine who would be best to take part. I do not believe I have had any response from you since then."


One last note
Sometime in 2011 (BFTF thinks) the funding for the Muslim Community Facilitator expired and the post was no longer manned. However, as I could not tell this from the website or email reponses (which were non-existent both before and after the change) this was somthing I had know way of knowing.

UPDATE(03 SEP 12):
Asked a could of local councillors whether I should give up trying to enagage with the council on these issues. One of the councillors very quickly asked to have a meeting to discuss, a date for which is still being organised. The other councillor said they would look into the issue but BFTF has not had any further response from them.

UPDATE(30 SEP 12):
Had meeting with Councillor responsible for the Community Cohesion team. He accepted that the lack of response was unacceptable and asked what BFTF wanted the group to do. BFTF didn't answer this very well at the time but followed up with an email later with three clear "asks":

i) The Community cohesion group commit to providing an answer within 7 days to people who ask for assistance in improving community cohesion - even if that answer is that they cannot help.

ii) The Community cohesion group detail what steps they have taken to implement the recommendations in the report (link here) that BFTF brought to the meeting.

iii) How often, roughly, do ordinary members of the public contact the Community Cohesion department asking for help to implement simple tasks that will improve community cohesion. (i.e. how many people like BFTF are asking the group for help).


UPDATE(01 NOV 12):
No response from councillor so emailed to chase.

UPDATE(05 DEC 12):
No response from councillor so emailed to chase.

UPDATE(02 JAN 13):
Someone who has long experience in the voluntary sector commented to BFTF regarding this post, saying:
"...as a community activist I have often found council departments and others in officialdom will ignore or side step issues they wish to avoid. Notions of transparency and accountability go out the window. Requesting committee meeting minutes can help and specifically asking that items be raised at com meeting can somethimes help, and if these are not responsed to Freedom of info requests can be submitted but its not easy."


UPDATE(08 JAN 13):
Still do not appear to have receiced any feedback to the "three asks" that I sent on 30th September following meeting with councillor. So chased the councillor about this.Councillor said that a response had been sent b one of his colleagues, but BFTF could not find a record of it in Inbox. Offered to pick up a hard copy from Loxley House

UPDATE(07 FEB 13):
Still do not appear to have receiced any feedback to the "three asks" that I sent on 30th September following meeting with councillor. So chased the councillor about this.

UPDATE(09 FEB 13):
Received a response that answered asks i) and iii) as follows:
"...The Cohesion Team (3 people) have not had any complaints from community groups or citizens before...tracking info from our generic email address (community.cohesion@nottinghamcity.gov.uk) - between April and September 2012 we received 21 emails from members of the public to this address and 20 were responded to in full within 12 days which is 95% (12 days is the standard performance measure used across Councils)...."

Asked that a response also be provided to ask ii) which was the important one

. UPDATE(15 FEB 13):
Received a detailed repsonse to ii) which has been posted (in an edited form) here

What will happen to Afghanistan in 2014?

Some time ago, BFTF was talking to someone from Stop The War about the situation in Afghanistan. He commented that he wanted the US troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. I asked him whether his priority was for the US troops to leave or for the Afghani people to have a better life, pointing out that the last time the US left Afghanistan to its own devices, the country quickly descended into civil war, with Muslim killing Muslim. His reply was so long as it was Afghan killing Afghan, it was their own problem to sort out.

His comment really disturbed BFTF, and came back to mind on reading an article by Patrick Bury, a former army Captain who served in Afghanistan, describes how the all sides are now gearing up for the withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014:

"Northern warlords are already re-arming in preparation for the coming civil war with the southern Pashtuns after NATO withdraws. ANSF troops occupying the ‘transitioned territories’ marked as green areas on headquarters’ maps are increasingly confined to their bases and will be more so when the West leaves."

This leaves the frightning possibility that Afghanistan will see a re-run of the 1990s when, according to Human Rights Watch :
"Battles for control of Kabul..in 1993-1995 destroyed at least one-third of the city, killed thousands of civilians, and drove a half million refugees to Pakistan. As party leaders frequently had only nominal control over their commanders, much of the northremained a patchwork of fiefdoms under the authority of various warlords. For civilians there was little security from murder, rape and extortion."


So far as BFTF can tell, not a single Muslim majority country did anything tangible to stop the killing - and it is reasonable to expect that they will be content to watch the killing from the sidelines again, no doubt whilst blaming everything on the US.

One would hope that the organisations in the UK that claim to represent British Muslims will also have thought about this issue and are making efforts to ensure that Afghanistan does not descend into a bloodbath come 2014.

So BFTF has asked the MCB and the ISB.

what their efforts were in this area (the MAB has no way, so far as BFTF can see, for ordinary people to email it).

Will let you know what feedback BFTF gets.

UPDATE : 9th Dec 2012:Having had no response, chased up the MCB again

UPDATE : 8th Jan 2013:Having had no response, chased up the MCB again

UPDATE : 3rd Mar 2013:Having had no response, chased up the MCB again

UPDATE : 29th Mar 2013:Having had no response, chased up the MCB again

UPDATE : 15th Apr 2013:Having had no response, and noting that a Commons Committee has said that civil war is likely in 2014, chased up the MCB again

UPDATE : 2nd Sep 2014:An Al-Jazeera article comments that :

"As the country's political crisis lingers and the US-led NATO forces begin to pull out, coordinated assaults by the Taliban - consisting of hundreds, sometimes even thousands of fighters - targeting strategic areas across the country...."

"...armed [local militia] groups, who operate in a culture of impunity, are growing increasingly volatile, creating more problems for civilians."

Asked the MCB what they were doing to stop Afghanistan falling into civil war, again.

UPDATE : Oct 2014: Emailed and Tweeted to MCB again...

What will be the fate of Afghanistans children
if the country desends into civil war again?
Image Source : Wikipedia

Friday, 17 August 2012

Dates in the Square - Summary of Events

The summer of 2012 saw Himmah (a not-for-profit grassroots community based initiative providing services, organising and education for Nottingham’s citizens) holding a series of "flash mob" style events at dusk in Nottingham's market square (see here and here)

Great to see such a wide demographic at the events.


Timed to co-incide with the month of Ramadhan, when Muslims are most focussed on charitable work, the events are held on Wednesdays over a period of four weeks and involved the sharing of food with the general public and short presenations by key local figures on issues of importance for those who want to see Nottingham have a strong, participatice and caring population. Below you can see a list of links to reports on each of the events : information about each

Week 1 : Racism - with Cllr Alex Norris and Shad Ali

Week 2 : Poverty - with Archdeacon Peter Hill and Maqsood Ahmed

Week 3 : Sanctuary - with Bishop Paul Butler, Arian and Bea Toboloweska

Week 4 : Homelessness - with Claire Grainger and Sandra

Claire Grainger and Sandra at the Week 4 event
After the reflections, food, water and dates were distributed to the audience and everyone was encouraged to take the opportunity to relax, enjoy the food and strike up a conversation or two.

It's dinner time


Here is the Carnivore option in Week 4


And here is the, equally delicious, vege option


Bring a Tin
Himmah is supporting the work of Notts Refugee Forum and also the NG7 Foodbank, both of whom are providing non-perishable foods to some of the most needy in Nottingham. As part of this effort, Himmah are asked people who attend the events to “Bring a Tin” of food for donation to these two organisations. You can find out more about this initiative is unfolding at some of Nottingham's mosques here

Just "Bring A Tin"

Dates in the Square - Wk4 - Homelessness

The fourth and last of the "Dates in the Square" events focussed on homelessness and included a reflection by Claire Grainger, from the Housing Support organisation HLG.

Claire was assisted by Sandra, one of HLG's service users, and they took turns to describe the various issues regarding homelessness.

Claire began by pointing out that there were homeless people in Nottingham right now. Some would be sleeping rough, some in cars, some in friends houses, some in hostels. And she asked the audience to consider how they would feel if they were suddenly homeless in Nottingham tonight - where would you go? How would you eat? How would your friends react?

Sandra now took over the microphone and outlined her experience, saying that before she became homeless she had thought that the homless were just dirty people living in the street. Sandra became homless when she lost her job and she was kicked out of the rented accomodation because they did not accept people who were on whose rent was paid by the DSS. Although Sandra was able to access emergency accomodation, the experience was, unsurprisingly, very traumatic and she became depressed.

Sandra felt that people (such as those in arreas or with mental health issues) needed to be helped before their situation became too severe.

Claire then continued the reflection, saying that Nottingham was now being hit very hard by cuts in public services and that this was resulting in some of the progress that has been made in recent years being lost, and that there were concerns that Nottingham was going back to the days when there were large numbers of rough sleepers because there was so little emergency accomodation provision.

Recognising that many people would be wondering what could be done to improve the situation, Claire made a number of suggestions:

1) Those who have been through homelessness need to be listened to.

2) Organisations need to ensure that they are making every penny count and are using best practice in their work.

3) Organisations also need to work together to achieve their aims.

4) People need to let decision makers know that homlessness is an issue that the people of Nottingham do care about.

Claire closed her (and Sandra's) presentation by thanking Himmah, saying that "Himmah is an organisation that, in a very practical way, show that they care for the homeless in Nottingham and they bring food and friendship to the homeless in Nottingham"

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

East End and Billingtons Demarara Sugar

BFTF was buying ingredients for Muffins and 250g Biccies recently and could not find any FairTrade light brown sugar.

So ended up buying non-Fairtrade Demarara Sugar, which has been something of a revelation. The coarser grains mean that is does not melt fully in the bisuits, reduceces flow during baking and reduces the tendency for the biscuits to burn.

Demarara sugar is BFTF's my new best friend.

Having said that, it would still be nice to know that these confections were not being prduced at the cost of poor workers rights in the country where the sugar is farmed.

So, after reading this very interesting report on the sugar industry in Africa, BFTF sent the following emails to East End and Billingtons.

"I have recently tried your Demarara sugar instead of the Light Brown Sugar I usually purchase for baking and found the Demarara to be a fantastic product and intend to switch to Demarara forthwith.

However, I note that your products do not feature the "FairTrade" logo and am concerned that those who produced this sugar (in its country or origin) have not been as well treated as they should have been.

I'm hoping you will be kind enough to provide some feedback on the three questions below, as positive responses will go a long war towards reassuring me that I can buy your product with confidence.

1) What assurance - and what evidence - can you give that you pay your fair share of tax in the producing country

2) Can you guarantee that all the workers producing this sugar, especially seasonal workers, are paid a living wage?

3) What efforts are you making to encourage "Fair Trade" style small scale outgrower schemes?"


Response from East End

15th Aug : A very quick initial response from East End said that "...this sugar which comes from a reputable supplier in Mauritius. We do not carry the Fair Trade logo as generally our customers are not willing to pay the premium for Fair Trade products. However, I assure you that I will have a reply from our supplier to your questions in due course."



16th Aug : Received a further response from East End passing on the following from their supplier :

"I can assure you that the Mauritius Sugar Syndicate, as the marketing arm of the sugar industry, is a non-profit organisation responsible for sales of all locally produced sugars - it subsequently distributes all sales proceeds, after deduction of common expenses, to the producers (including the smallest planters) on basis of the tonnage of sugar produced by each of them. You can ask your customer to visit our website www.mauritiussugar.mu for further information on our organisation."


Response from Billingtons

15th Aug : A very quick response from Billingtons saying "... all of our sugars are full produced at site. We are AB members of SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) and actively ensure high ethical standards are upheld throughout our supply chain through annual audits and visits. As such we can guarantee that all the workers in the supply chain of this sugar are treated well and earn a decent living wage... "

They also sent a copy of their "Code of Practice for Socially Responsible Sourcing", which states that "It is expected that all suppliers adhere to the principles within this Code of Practice, which is based upon the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) ‘Base Code’ and International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions." and, encouragingly, goes on to specifically mention that "wages should always be enough to meet basic needs and to provide some discretionary income."

Incidentally, and somewhat to BFTF's surprise, the code shows Billingtons to be part of the "Silver Spoon" company.




Conclusion
BFTF has been encouraged by the information from both suppliers, and is faced by the unexpected situation of having two options for buying ethically produced sugar.

Result!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Guns Don't Kill People

Anyone with even the most peripheral interest in the spetacular gun crime statistics from the US, will have heard the pro-gun lobby's phrase "Guns don't kill people, people kill people"

Just saw a the most perfect antidote to this here, where one Ian Shields has commented :

"Cars don't go 100 miles per hour -- people do. But try it without a car, and see how that works out for ya."


Genius.

Incidentally, this is what Wikipedia has to say on gun crime rates :

The incidence of homicides committed with a firearm in the US is much greater than most other advanced countries. In the United States in 2009 United Nations statistics record 3.0 intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants; for comparison, the figure for the United Kingdom, with very restrictive firearm laws (handguns are totally prohibited, for example) was 0.07, about 40 times lower, and for Germany 0.2.

For another comparison, Switzerland has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world, with somewhere between 1.2 to 3 million guns in the private residences of its approximately 8 million citizens. In 2006 there were 34 recorded murders or attempted murders with a gun, representing a firearm homicide rate of 1 per 250,000.


Random Acts of Kindness

BFTF is rather a fan of "random acts of kindness", they really do warm the heart and are part of the glue that holds society together - a powerful antidote to the, rather selfish, barrage of consumerist advertising that we are all bombarded with.

BFTF does occasionally perform a random act of kindness, usually in one of the following two ways:

Way 1 : When embarking on a campaign of Muffin making, a few times a year BFTF sends batches of muffins to the neighbours up and down the road.

Way 2 : This one is embarrasingly trivial, and involves the plastic separators at supermarket checkouts. You may have had the experience of putting your shopping on the conveyor but not being able to put a separator in front of (or indeed behind) your shopping because they are all down at the front by the checkout operator, so you have to wait until it is nearly your turn before you can get to one.

Well, what BFTF does is to push all the separators all the way to the back of the conveyor so that the shoppers behind can use them straight away.

I did warn you it was trivial, but no, you had to read it anyway. Learnt your lesson now have you?.



A Random Act of Kindness in Ramadan,
One aspect of Ramadan is that, if there are a number of Muslim families on a particular street, they will often send gifts of food to each other just before sunset, when the fast is broken (the breaking of the fast is known as the "Iftar"). This is clearly as good thing, as it helps to build a sense of community (and often gets one out of a hole if you haven't prepared anything and are wondering what to eat at Iftar time!)

But BFTF wonders how this looks to the non-Muslim residents on the street. Perhaps, for example, they are wondering why they are so completely excluded from this foodie giftiness?

So, to try and show a bit more inclusivity, Sons No2 and No3 were out yesterday with 5 bags of muffins each. No2 son was to turn right and offer muffins to each house until he had run out, while No3 son was to turn left and so the same thing.

One wonders whether this was still an "Act of Kindness" - or was it now an "Act of Self-Interest", or an "Act of Compassion"? And where do the boundaries of these lie?

The Kindness Offensive
Penultimately, it's perhaps worth mentioning "The Kindness Offensive", which is an organisation who perform what can perhaps best be described as "organised acts of kindness" - check out their website.

Lastly
It would be great, gentle reader, to know if you have any Acts of Kindness that you drop onto an otherwise unsuspecting public. We really don't big up this kind of thing enough, so please, do share. . .

Update 15 Sep12 : Cities of Compassion
Saw a stall in the city centre today who were publicising their petition to make Nottingham a "City of Compassion". You can read all about it at their website.


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Dates in the Square - Wk3 - Sanctuary

The third of the 2012 "Dates in the Square" events, was held on 8st August and focussed on seeking sanctuary. It included a short talk by Bishop Paul Butler, a testimony from Arian (who came to the UK seeking sactuary from persecution in Syria) and finally a reflection from Bea Tobolewska, head of Notts and Nottingham Refugee Forum. (see here for 1st and 2nd events)

Bishop Paul Butler
Bishop Paul focussed on the recent "Homelessness and Hope" report that was the result of an investigation into homelessness and destitution in Nottingham (see also here).

He commented that reading the report "made me weep" and that people needed to read the report and, just as importantly, ensure that their local decision-makers (Councillors, Imams, NGO's etc) were aware of the report and its findings.

The Bishop closed by summarising his message as "Please look at the "Homlessness and Hope" report and act on it"



Bishop Paul Butler


Arian
Arriving in the UK several years ago to escape persecution in his native Syria, Arian's application for asylum was initially rejected. Arian appealed against this decision, but was denied access to any support funds during this appeal process, leaving him completely destitute.

He commented on how it had been Nottingham Arimathea Trust and Himmah who had helped provide him with accomodation and sustinence during this difficult time - when no one else wanted to help him. (see here for how NAT and Himmah have been working together)

Happily, Arian was able to say that his appeal had been successful and he now had refugee status.

Great to see such a wide demographic at the event.
(note the, very polite,  PCO in background asking the Bishop if the event has official permisson)


Bea Toboloweska
Bea, who is manager at Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum began her talk by mentioning that it was almost exactly 40 years since the Ugandan expulsion of Asians and that one of her first memories of being aware of current affairs was watching the news and asking her father who all these people were arriving in the UK - and of feeling very proud when she was told that the UK was accepting these people as refugees.

Bea then moved on to give an outline of the asylum process in the UK, saying that the rules were quite strict and explaining that an "asylum seeker" was someone who was going through the process of seeking refugee status and that there was no such thing as a "bogus" or "legal" asylum seeker.

She also countered the myth that many of the worlds refugees were targeting the UK or Europe by pointing out that the UK only receives 2% of the worlds refugees and that the rest of Europe only receives around 15%. In contrast, some 66% of the worlds refugees are located in countries directly bordering conflict areas in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Lastly, Bea gave an outline of the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum, saying that it had initially been formed, many years ago, to provide a social function to asylum seekers and refugees by providing with help in orientating themselves in the UK and also providing help and advice.

Bea Toboloweska


Sunday, 5 August 2012

Great Comedy on Radio 4 at 6.30 weekdays

Those of you of a certain age will smile and recognise the catchphrase “It's Friday, it's five to five and it's Crackerjack” - words that were a part of BFTF’s childhood and in a somewhat tenuous link, these days BFTF often thinks “It’s a weekday, it’s 6.30, so its time for comedy on Radio 4” - perhaps UK broadcasting’s best kept secret.

Fags, Mags and Bags
To get a feel for the quality of what is on offer, check out this snippet of dialogue from an episode of “Fags, Mags and Bags”, a shows based on the characters who visit the Glasgow corner shop owned by RameshMahju. Here the characters are discussing snooker in episode 2 from series 4 of the show:

Mrs Begg (customer) : … there used to be a lot of personalities in snooker, didn’t there? All named after extreme weather formations ,weren’t they?

Dave(Ramesh’s friend) : That’s right. There was, what’s his name, Jimmy the Whirlwind White..

Mrs Begg: Alex The Hurricane Higgins

Alok (Ramesh’s son) : Was that it?

Mrs Begg : Er. . . I think so, yes.

Alok : That’s pants!

Ramesh : In my imagination there were more weather centric purveyors of snooker. Was the tornado never invoked?

Mrs Begg : Actually, d’you know what, I don’t think it was

Ramesh : They missed a trick there, one of the top 16 should have deployed that epithet in his nomenclature. Ray Reardon, for example, Ray “The Tornado” Reardon.

Dave : Two things Ramesh. One - Tornado Reardon’s not alliterative, it needs to be alliterative. And Two - He resembled Dracula, that was his thing. Well, that and being good at snooker, and being avuncular. He was on Jim’ll Fix It once, he came over very well. The point is, he was well catered for gimmick-wise. He didn’t need to jump on the coat tails of a weather formation.

Genius, utter genius.

But what is perhaps most appealing about comedy at 6.30 is not the conventional “sitcom” type shows, of which “Fags, Mags and Bags” is an example, but rather the more off beat shows where the listener has the chance to “get under the skin” of comedians.

Jimmy "Whirlwind" White wearing white socks. What can you say, it was the 80s.


I’ve never seen Star Wars
One example of this is “I’ve never seen Star Wars” in which, often comedic, guests are asked to partake of five experiences that they have never had before - it was fascinating to hear what Paul Daniels thought about swimming (which he gave 7/10) and the movie The Great Escape (9.5/10), particularly as the listener felt they were hearing the “real” Paul Daniels, not the artificial act that he puts on when he is in magician mode.

And sometimes the comments can be really informative, Ardal O'Hanlon’s comments on using Twitter were the first time that BFTF really understood what Twitter was all about, although Ardal’s rating of 2/10 shows that he was not really convinced.

Chain Reaction
This show, in which the guests become the interviewers for the next week, can sometimes be a bit of a damp squib, but when it works it really works. One particularly fascinating episode involved Steven Merchant interviewing Jarvis Cocker. In it , Jarvis commented on how his vision was very blurred without his glasses and that “ “Don’t you think it’s nice when you wake up in the morning and it’s a gentle way to wake up because everything is still nice and fuzzy and deciding when to put your glasses on is really like deciding “right, I’ve decided when the day is going to start and suddenly everything is in focus”.

Jarvis also recounted a tale from his past in which he had tried to impress a girl by climbing out of a window and then re-entering the building from the next window along - a feat that he had seen someone perform at a party previously. Unfortunately, the trick relied on the windows being of a “sash” variety - in contrast to the hinged windows at the girls flat. So Jarvis decided that he could still impress the girl but hanging off the window sill and then swinging over to the next window before entering.

Once he was out and dangling from the window, Jarvis quickly realised that he did not have enough strength to swing across, nor did he have enough strength to haul himself back in. As the girl was (unsurprisingly) unable to pull him I, he ended up letting go (apparently he felt this was a better option than losing his grip) and falling three stories to the ground.

The resulting injuries put him in hospital for six weeks and in a wheel chair for two months. On the plus side (such as there was) he commented that “I suddenly realised that all this stuff around me, in Sheffield, normal day to day things that I thought “ooh, that’s too normal to write about”, was actually the stuff that I was more interested in. And so I started to get a lot more specific and use place names and stuff like that in my writing.“

Sometimes artistic insight comes at the bottom of a three story fall.


My Teenage Diaries
This programme involves celebrities looking back on, and reading from, their teenage diaries. Whilst there are plenty of laughs, there are also some quite touching moments. Victoria Coren, for example, subsequently commented that “I remembered myself as a rather classy teenager, above all that trivial nonsense, thinking only about reading and writing and having a job. Apparently not. Those things held no interest at all. I thought of nothing but boys. I was as trivial as they come. I made the cast of Beverley Hills 90210 look like Nietzsche.”

Bleak Expectations
Written with a wonderful sense of the surreal, this show describes, in a Dickensian style, the exploits of Pip as he struggles to save himself and family from the evil Mr Gently Benevolent. BFTF’s favourite quote relates to an incident where someone was attacked with “a sharpened cushion”. Quality writing, pretty much all the way through.

Mark Steel’s in Town
This multi-award winning show takes Mark Steel, one of the most likeably comedians of recent times, to several small towns around the UK, At each location, Mark performs a stand-up routine that focuses on the people, history and character of that particular town.

In a testament to the ability of the British to laugh at themselves, the audience invariably laughs as Mark outlines the foibles of the area. Check out these clips to see what he is like in action, it really is a great mix of education and entertainment.

Lincolnshire, it's like a British version of Kansas


The News Quiz
A long time stalwart of the comedy slot, the News Quiz features comedians and other showbiz people commenting on recent news stories. Not least of these was the late great Linda Smith who, in response to Clive Anderson saying that they should not give (recently released) Geoffrey Archer the oxygen of publicity said "I'm not that happy with him having the oxygen of oxygen, actually,".

And a recent show included this gem of an anecdote from Roisin Conaty "When I was nine I had a very big argument with my Mum in Camden Town because she was reneging on a trip to Margate and I ran off and was picked up by the Police - who I then told my name was Lucy and I lived in Margate. And I got driven to Margate, my friends!"

Related content : Challenging the BBC on coverage of the NHS Bill

Image Sources : Jimmy White, Jarvis Cocker, Lincolnshire