Category Archives: TV Stuff

I like football #WeAreFemaleFans



I like football a lot. However, in the last two weeks something really important has become really apparent.

Despite the upsurge in Women’s football after the World cup and increased coverage of Women’s games, women liking the sport is still something of a sticky wicket.

Two articles have caught my attention. The most recent this morning and both from the BBC.

The  first discusses how the in-progress World Cup has notes of Sexualisation. The second, talks about Female Fans.

My reaction to the first, was very much a gut reaction. In my day job, I teach feminism, I work with female students who have unequal access to areas where their male counterparts get a free pass. Football is actually a big part of my teaching. It get shoe-horned into every bit of Psychology, Sociology and Business that I can.

My hackles were raised full mast; how dare people pass a camera over anyone, yes anyone, and comment on their appearance. This happens every day, regardless of it being a footballing fiesta. This goes back to good old fashioned gender politics and socialisation. This is a manifestation of social norms and cultural practices that belong in the dark ages. Funny, since football has been around since then. The views about Women and football do rather belong in the cave ages.

I was incensed, about the comments made about female pundits and commentators. They, like their male counterparts, have skills, knowledge and understanding, practical awareness of the game.

They, know the same offside rule, as a male pundit would.

They too have played football.

Yet, they really don’t know their stuff?

The mind boggles.

Mansplaining has raised it’s ugly head. A concept that is surreal but frightening. Something can’t be true, valid or acceptable if someone with ovaries says the same. Have an XY set of chromosome is the kicker. One day, I do hope someone says “I did just flippin’ well tell you.”

The second article is far more striking for me. Here we have everyday women, of all shapes, sizes, colours, creeds, orientations; women, who have more than just a passing interest in football.

These women are just like me. That is what I think is important.

Two weeks ago, I filled in the work football sweepstake for the group stages. Handed over my quid, sat at the table in the staff room. Found my pen; I systematically went through the fixtures. What do I know about France, their turbulent history? The Spanish have sacked their coach, will this reflect in a disjointed team movement. Where are Portugal? Will Iceland trip people up? Hold on, Argentina, Uruguay, will they play samba football or something. No way, no how will the Germans have an early bath.

I took this very seriously!

My footballing education started with Euro 96, it has it’s uses.

So much so.

When the results were being ‘analysed’:

“Punam, you might actually be winning. You’re quite close really….”

(I didn’t win. But I did try. Due to some strange football during the latter half of the group stages, I got kiboshed. The teacher in me wanted to know the final tally, and tutted loudly.)

What all the fluky results, I might have gone into a full scale monologue about how squad formations with empirical statements and historical evidence. (“Right, you’re a defender on the back foot. If you have a great big massive, stocky striker headed towards you, powered by a midfield engine with a full scale attack. You have two options; get pummelled or move out the way. I wouldn’t get in Maradona’s way, would you?”)

“Punam, I have never heard a lady analyse football so well.”

I may have shaken my head, walked off with that second one.

On the other hand:

“Punam, it’s really refreshing to hear a woman speak about football like you do.”

(Lovely. That, we like. That, was genuine, accepting and really encouraging.)

Raising three daughters, Pops has never ever refused us football. Youngest sister was actually a nifty player when a teenager, and Dad would talk tactics with her all the time. The only time I ever asked him what he meant, I had no idea what a heavy pitch was.

(There’s too much water, and they should have cut the grass….)

My key point, is that gender has never been in issue. As a family, we all enjoy football. Mum spends a week complaining about the noise, and by semi-final time she’s picked the opposite team to everyone else.

I will continue to talk a good game; I can’t play for toffee.

With the knockout stages looming, I need to go find a cushion behind which I can watch penalties.

Might even go find my England shirt…

Big allotment challenge the final

Episode six and it’s final time. I watched this last episode with some trepidation. Despite having spent 5 weeks swooning over @robsallotment, it was hard to think who might win. I won’t say who, you may want to watch it.

sadly I don’t recall last years final in detail. But I do think that this year the final was tougher. The grow challenge was all about cauliflowers and cape gooseberries. Cauliflowers, I have experienced growing and therefore can have some empathy with the contestants. I don’t find them easy to grow. There was some good growing advice and mentions of the pests that can cause a huge hindrance. Loved the beautiful purple cauliflower. You wouldn’t get that in the supermarket or would you?! Wasn’t sold on the cape gooseberries. Don’t think I would grow them myself.

Flowers passed me by, per usual.

The eat was as ever an opportunity for Thane. Seriously, give this lady her own show. I don’t think she has been as mean she could have been. Even then, thane gives constructive feedback. Yes, she’ll say if something is bad. But she has never stuck the palate knife in. There were cocktails. Which makes perfect sense if you hs shave ever made homebrew from plot fruit. Would have been nice to see more of that though. I don’t know how thane stayed sober. Confectionary was an interesting idea as was the canapés.

Big Allotment Challenge 2015: Epi five

This week’s episode was going to get my attention on two counts. The first, Okra. The second, pickles and preserves. This week, I was not going to focus on the perfect veg idea. I can understand how that is basis for the show bench and the idea of a village show. But with the okra, I wasn’t bothered about how this quirky, beautifully ugly vegetable could be presented on the show bench. I can only imagine the oohs and ahhs, should it be presented on a local fete.

I like okra, my mother likes Okra. It is one of the many vegetables that falls into her ‘Indian/Asian’ veg maxim. That is her main rule that goes with the plot. I should grow ‘Indian/Asian’ veg, and that’s about it. That’s why we have lots of spinach and fenugreek. Not to mention turnips and things, as well as garlic. Fruit is less asian/indian, but I am hoping that the gooseberries will clinch it as Amlas,

Learning that okra seed should be soaked for twenty four hours was very very useful. I’m glad that was mentioned, and that made sense to my mum when I regaled her about how that had been done on the show. Soaking of seeds, placing the seeds into the heated prop. Then to transfer at the six leaf stage into a big 25cm pot. This was good advice. Seeing the half a dozen plants in the greenhouses of the contestants, felt real. Okay, they have heated greenhouses and not poly tunnels. But there was context, there was technique and guidance. I did feel that I genuinely learned something here, that I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. I had given up somewhat on the idea of growing Okra, but would definitely think about growing them again. Definitely not about the judgement on the show bench. You know if people grew straight forward simple things on the allotment, things would be very boring. Kudos for the show presenting a crop that wouldn’t ordinarily be on the box.

I have no comment to make about the floo’ers. Again, I wasn’t concentrating on this. So sorry about that!

Pickles and preserves. As you are aware, I am somewhat biased with these. It took me a while to appreciate them, and to be able to use my own crops. I love Thane Prince and her ability to keep it real. She does mention taste, she is quite clear about what she expects. Above all, Thane Prince advocates using your crops, and being creative. Two central ideas, when you are trying to make the most of the produce that you grow. Someone needs to give Thane Prince her own TV show. Would be epic and a whole new generation of preservers and picklers would be inspired. Think that’s a cue for Thane and the lovely Nigel slater to work together.

#thisgirlcan : Allotmenteering

Me, and The Champion's league Replica, I think it's a replica.....
Me, and The Champion’s league Replica, I think it’s a replica…..

When I tell people, that I have an allotment. Other than almost killing the conversation, the response is usually a scoff and a spot of “what you? Thought that was all about old men.”

Newflash. Think again.

I’ve had the plot now for three years, I was container gardening two years prior to that. And I am certainly not an old man. I’m thirty years of age, and a woman. You do not get to call me old.

I’m not the only girl on our site, it’s actually fairly equal. But I do wonder how many there are across the country. Plus, like many other parts of the society around us. Maybe gardening is no longer a blokey bastion, with cloak and dagger shed conversations. Times are a changing.

It might historically have been a bloke’s playground, on the ground as it were. And even on the box, all the gardeners, with the exception of Charlie Dimmock and Carol Klien, have been establishment gentlemen. I’m quite glad, that television personality Fern Briton has been involved with the Big Allotment Challenge, and the contestants have been fairly representative. Allotmenteering has had something of a renaissance. More and more women are getting allotment plots. Women, of all ages, from all walks of life. The allotment, is not longer the strong hold of aged men. It is no longer, a closed shop.

I like my allotment. I dislike going to the Gym. I’m not anti-Gym, it’s just not for me. I don’t dislike the idea of getting worked up and sweaty with kettle bells. The same happens when you trundle up and down a plot with a wheelbarrow. Pottering around, can give the same opportunity to be mobile and raise your heart rate for that recommended 30 minutes twice a week.  The plot is hard work, it requires commitment and determination. There is exercise to be hand. Trust me, there is something of a calming effect to be experienced when walking up and down passed your roses and gladioli. It even involves braining slugs and snails, but one is not some weak willed maiden, going all knock kneed. If a slug or snail wishes to take me, then it is going to have a duel on it’s antennae.

Allotmenteering is an alternative learning experience. You become aware of success and of failure. You acquire alternative knowledge and understanding. You gain, an alternative perspective.

It is more definitely not for those who are likely to give up, or for the figuratively faint hearted maiden. It is however, for everyone. I know that some allotment sites can be cliquey, political mindfields of gerberas and gladioli. But that is not something to be focused on.

I am proud to be a young-ish woman, who has allotmenteering as a hobby. It is something that I enjoy, that I am passionate about and like to share with other like minded people. I do believe that it is for everyone, that gender, colour and creed, are of no consequence. A spade will not worry about who is using it. Allotmenteering doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone, and it is a beyond the norm hobby. But I like it. And I plan to continue with it, for as long as I possibly can.

Allotmenteering, #thisgirlcan

Big Allotment Challenge 2015: Epi Four

This week, it was tomatoes, tears, tantrums and jams.

The two key area for me were the tomatoes and the jams, quintessentially two good parts of allotmenteering. To be honest, it was through watching the show last year that I started making preserves myself.

With the tomatoes, the contestants had to grow and show as usual. You’d think that growing tomatoes is fairly simple. Lots of people do it and not always because they have an allotment. I do hasten to add, that in this context, with a show, being on show is the key. I watched this segment, as though I was watching penalties. I was sat on the sofa, huffing and puffing, about how complex-and competitive-tomato growing could be. Huffing and puffing, as I grow them-you have seen the previous posts about them-but never get them going red. Yet the contestants did that, no problem. In their fairly swish, heated greenhouses. And they were nice specimens.
Specimens. They are not exhibits. They are tomatoes. You eat them. And that was my biggest problem with it. I do hasten to add, that there was a tomato jam later on that they had to make as part of the eat challenge.

These were very pretty, very red, bountiful crops. The most pampered tomato plants in the British Isles. There were techniques and there were tears as some of the crops didn’t quite get there. Another thing, that got on my wick, Some of the contestants had bought plants from a garden centred. You can get tomato seeds anywhere, and the plants just need a little bit of TLC to get them growing. I’m not completely against plugging in plants. I do that with cabbages, and in the past, I have cheated and bought plants when things were a bit late and my seeds had died a death. This did slightly irk me. I am not for cheating. I would rather sow seeds and follow my goods from cradle to ladle as it were.

The floo’ers. No comment. I didn’t pay any attention there. Sorry.

I was too busy waiting for jams. Last series, the jams made me realise just what else you could do with your crops. This week, interestingly, there was a savoury jam and a sweet jam. And there were dramas, with jam that was burned, jam that wasn’t going to set. I had genuine empathy for that, I really did. That does happen. I have experienced that, and wanted to cry with having burned the bottom of the jam pan. The jams didn’t look like jams to me, more purees. Perhaps I expect a bit more wobble. Next week, it’s pickles and chutney’s, so I will definitely be paying attention.

Big Allotment Challeneg 2015: Epi Three

Peas, lilly growing, dips and crisps. That was the order of the day with this particular episode.

You’d think growing peas was simple. I’ve done it myself, I’ve even done it whilst working with young people in school gardening clubs. Yet it all seems a bit more complicated when it comes to the show bench. Loved Lena’s pea sticks, that to me is the traditional way of growing peas. However, if you want proper, show stopping peas, use the corden method. You grow them up, trim off the tendrils. Alot of time was dedicated to the growing technique of show stopping peas. Right down to how many you would expect in the pod per the variety.

There was even pea-gate. The Pesky pheasant was chomping things. I don’t wish a pest on anyone, but how many folks have pheasants running around. Pigeons, maybe.

Haven’t sown peas in years. Might try them soon, I do have seeds some place.

Lillies. Aren’t these toxic to cats? Again, I phased out with the flowers. The growing and cultivation, the decorating of the candelabra. I can see why people would sow flowers, I can see how the logic lies when being Bumble bee friendly. But when am I going to be decorating candelabras?

Then cam eat, and the crisps and dips. That’s logical, things you can make with your produce. But why leave this til the end? Eat is important, it is the very premise of growing. I love Thane, her comments are useful, and she stands by using your produce. Eat and grow should be the collective fulcrum of the show. The make can be part of those two components.

‘Big Allotment Challenge 2015: epi two

Caught up with this last night, after the Hampton Court Documentary. I didn’t want to get behind.

The one striking thing with this series is that the contestants are different compared to last years. They are more competitive, and there is clear indicators of how good they are at both growing and cooking.

First came the growing challenge of cucumbers. I was glad, actually, that there were growing tips. Such as sowing seeds on their sides and also pinching out. That was a good educational component, I actually learned things that would help me. So far, I have not had much success with cucumbers. And respect to Rob, for a heritage cucumber, when everyone else went with standard yellow ones. Plus. I think Rob is the eye candy that all the girls on the plot are cooing over.

Cut flowers, I zoned out for, and hugged. I have no idea about larkspur flowers, I did see the seeds. Can’t say I would try them. Currently looking at chrysanthemums for mama.

Last was the eat challenge. There has been alot said about Thane being negative. I disagree, her feedback this week was good. It was constructive, and expert. I listen really carefully to what she has to say, so that I can incorporate it into what I do when I am preserving. Thane Prince is a like a good, effective, considerate OFSTED inspector. The lollies and syrup was a good idea, something that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought about.

What I will say, is that the feedback is indicative of the quality of the contestants. In terms of how skilled they are, how resourceful they are. The extent to which they use their products.

Big Allotment Challenge 2015: Epi one

9pm, a Friday. And the Big Allotment Challenge was back. With baited breath, Britain’s allotmenteering community flicked on BBC2 to see what changes had been made since last years first series.

So I commandeered the family tv, complete with Mama and her knitting needles. I would watch this, on the larger screen, rather than on a portable device on catch up.

Credits rolled, and I could feel myself slipping into observation mode, It’s hard not to be a teacher. There was even my notebook and a pen, I was going to make very close observations.

Plots have changed since the end of the last series, back down to blank canvasses. We saw the series 2 contestants plot and plan out what they wanted to do. One of the opening statements was that these were amateur gardeners. Significant, as a large proportion of other horticultural shows will involve professionals. Important, as amateurs can get things wrong and not necessarily get huffy about it.

Spuds. Spuds, were the first challenge. Can’t say these featured directly in the first series. But with the show being short, the focus was on new potatoes. These would also feature with the eat challenge later with Thane Prince. Okay, so they all grew spuds. What I took umbrage with, was Jim’s dismissive remarks about spuds being the basics of the allotment. why did I get cheesed off? I have issues with my spuds. I plant them, monitor them, and still end up with holey spuds, with the occasional green one. I am clearly failing, with the basics.

What was nice, was there was focus on growing. Advice, techniques and strategies on how to do it. What to expect, and how to do things. There was also experimentation, by Lena one of the contestants. There is nothing wrong with experiments, and if you don’t try, you don’t know. Something Matt was also interested in. Testing the acidity of his soil. I have yet to do that. I am happy knowing I have clay.

And we saw pests! yes, slugs, snails, things that eat your crop before you do. Growing, is not perfect. Things go wrong. Both potatoes, and the zinnia flowers were afflicted by pests. I could have done a small whoop whoop cheer, for the critters that finally got shown to the unsuspecting public. There were twenty minutes of new potatoes, as they went to the show bench. One of the contestants tickled her spuds, I have furtled, but never tickled.

I get that people do grow for show. But the fact that veg has to be perfect, that annoys me. You can see Jamie Oliver’s campaign for ugly veg hit the news here. Perfectly good veg, but not pretty. Is avoided by both supermarkets and consumers. There is nothing wrong with it!

Flower growing, I shall gloss over. I glazed over with that bit. I am not a bouquet or floral basket maker. Glazing and glossing over. I wanted to fast forward to the eat, but couldn’t zap the tv.

Eat. Mustard and another sauce. You can make your own mustard, who knew. Sauces, to accompany a roast dinner. A sacrosanct meal, I tell you.

I wanted to see the reactions of Thane Prince. I like Thane, no nonsense in her approach. There was definitely no nonsense. Holding no punches, Thane gave her verdicts on the sauces. The contestants did appear to have fun in the kitchen, but that didn’t improve the matter. Thane wasn’t overly impressed by some of the sauces. Neither was I, to be fair. Was holding out for jams, jellies, chutney’s and cordials. Think there is syrup next week, insert your own toupee joke there.

Overall, I am not sure what I think. I even had to sleep on it. I may have even dreamt about it. Whilst there are changes. More growing advice, individual contestants who actually get irked with one another. Of course I will watch the next episode. But this still requires improvement.

Big Allotment Challenge: It’s Back! 2015

It’s back! The Big Allotment Challenge is back!

I watched this earlier this year, with a mix of curiosity and excitement. Of all the things to base a reality television game show. An allotment. Remember, we had already allotment wars, showing just the sort of Machiavellian mischief that could happen with mud, manure and marrows.

For the whole series, I was hooked.  A bit cynical throughout, huffing and puffing a little, as to how it didn’t necessarily reflect my experience of allotmenteering. My little 200sq metres, isn’t for example, in the back yard of what looks like a very posh country house. So my viewing, was a bit mud splattered, and fairly closed minded.

There were lessons to be learned though. Or at least nuggets to be taken from it. You’ll have to look through the assorted blogs, for the whole picture. The show inspired me to try aubergines again. I did. And I still don’t know how the contestants managed to grow them. I had diddly ones. Nothing from the seed’s I’d sown. but a few oddments from the shop brought one’s. In a poly tunnel, my crops, didn’t compare. So I am at loss, as to how those lovely people got those whopping big aubergines. I might just sow a couple of them, leave them in pots this time. Then there was the melon. Sown, planted, I didn’t get one of those either. It just snaked itself around the polytunnel.

The growing, seemed absent of wonky veg. Okay, the showbench is about pretty and perfect. Thing is, I don’t have perfect veg on the plot. I have beautifully ugly, a bit bruised, slightly worn around the edges, but still home made and mine, because of it. Don’t necessarily have pretty perfect ones. After all, if it’s edible, it’s going to be chemically and mechanically digested, and possibly taste good with it. If I can grow a perfect cabbage, then yes, I shall concede.  That was the ‘Grow’, primarily for the show bench.

The two things, that I took away from the make section. How to tie a handmade bouquet, when the roses have have thorns. I was glad to see the show have roses, there is something quintessentially English about them being in an garden. I have quite a few, including one that is supposed to be blue. It’s a funny shade of lilac, actually. As far as the flowers were concerned, I became aware of Gladiolus. And planted dozens and dozens on the plot, of all different sizes. High summer came, and the plot looked as though fireworks were going off in assorted directions. As for growing one that was perfect. Nah, it was pretty, that I can live with. And bumblie bees seemed to like them.

Then there was the eat section. And the world was re-introduced to the wonder that is Thane Prince. Prior the show, I have dabbled in the odd chilli jam, the odd chutney. But watching the show, the world of preserves became that bit broader and a bit more colourful. Makes sense really, you do have to eat the stuff you grow. Yet, there is only so many curried courgettes and aubergines that you can take. In watching the show, I learned how you make sure that a chutney was cooked, If you can part the mixture with a wooden spoon, and it stays parted. Then the job’s done. The Thane Prince torch test with Jelly, passing a beam through. Was also a nugget. Though I do intent to make a jelly-santa brought me a jelly straining kit-with edible glitter to see if the beam will bounce. I brought a jam pan, I wanted one anyway, having window shopped it throughout the series. I ended up making a lot courgette chutney, a lot of jam.  My second batch of blackberry jam, set rock hard, I didn’t have a thermometer at that stage. I had faffed with the cold plate test. I found a jam thermometer. My mama was all very excited at first. We had discovered how to make jam. So of course she was going to pick a pound of blackberries, and were going to make jam. But then came the rest. The chutneys. And lots of them. Mama’s enthusiasm has since waned. The assorted handful, yes, a handful -I gave away my experiments- in the pantry are a few too many and clutter the pantry.

Then there was the homebrew.  A case of, now I realise that I can do something with that.

The show did have good aspects. Allotmenteering was having a renaissance. The illusion that it was an old man’s game, was being shattered. Women could do it too, and it wasn’t as sedentary as you might think. In my own allotmenteering experience, I’m quite happy to bust those myths. Happy, to spread it’s assorted messages.

All being well, I shall be tuning in again. Apparently there have been some format changes. It will be interesting to see what these are, and what impact these will have.


Argh allotment challenge-the finale

Argh allotment challenge-the finale

I must confess that the twitterverse had already told me the winner before I watched it. So in actually watching it, I wanted to see how this all actually ends.

For me this has been a game show. A competition. Devoid of education, it informed somewhat; but was designed primarily to entertain. If there are to factual lessons learned from this; create a documentary over the course of a year and show real allotments and real work. When the show says it has recruited them most talented, I’m not ensure that this accurate.

So this week, contestants had to grow a melon and a cob of corn. Neither of these are easy. So to use as a gameshow task was going to be iffy.

The winners never actually won a best in show for for growing. Anyone else confused by that? How does that qualify a winner?

More grafted veg too with the melon plants. One even planted out side by way of experiment. Experiment. A word not oft used in this show.

Paid particular attention to the sweetcorn as I currently have a whole batch sown awaiting germination. Not that I am coddling them though. And there is baby watermelon on the window sill. How did they get six per plant?! It saddened me that two early ripeners were thrown onto a compost pile.

Jim has scared the life outta me though. To keep saying that they are high maintenance. Nothing encouraging there then.

Kate and Eleanor tipified that not all gardening is successful, and this was realistic. That is what happens.

Dahlias, have tried these and failed repeatedly. Not sure how hanging baskets fit in with allotments either. And it is a hanging basket and not a hanging design. No idea how these contain rhythm and design. It is not a brass band.

Flower faff went on far too long.

Then came the eat. A gift basket. Three preserves and a secret. And education, with good experimentation and adventure. Something that was missing all the eat through uptil now. Proper adventure and enthusiasm. Shame as dimi and rupert got chastised for experimenting.

And this is where the winners stole the show, but only just. That double dose of delicious clinched it for them and blew the rest of out the water.

My congratulations to the winners 🙂