Brexit Curry

An article on the BBC website today, Cars, curry and tortillas’ role in Brexit charm offensive, discusses the diplomacy underway between Britain and the EU:

Food has also been used by Conservative members of the European Parliament to woo their continental colleagues in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The newspaper reported that they have hosted dinners at the city’s best curry house.

This is particularly appropriate because curry was David Cameron’s last supper, the night before he quit Number 10 Downing Street. The Guardian reported that the order “contained delights such as samosas, Kashmiri rogan josh, a mixed grill and saag aloo (spinach and potato)“. The restaurant that provided the meal, the Kennington Tandoori, is thought to be the first curry house mentioned by name in Parliament.

Curry was one of the battlegrounds in last year’s Brexit campaign. Restaurant owners could be found arguing on both sides. The Bangladesh Caterers Association was in favour of Brexit, whereas the Asian Catering Federation was in favour of remain. Both sides saw immigration rules as the cause of a shortage of curry chefs, but disagreed over whether the issue was the EU. Priti Patel, Employment Minister and leave campaigner, claimed that the EU was a barrier for trade between India and the UK, pointing to a recent ban on Indian mangoes.

In an article in the Evening Standard, published in May 2016, Patel explained how Brexit would save British curry houses:

Uncontrolled immigration from the EU has led to tougher controls on migrants from the rest of the world. This means that we cannot bring in the talents and the skills we need to support our economy. By voting to leave we can take back control of our immigration policies, save our curry houses and join the rest of the world.

She also gave a speech where she said:

It is manifestly unfair and unjust that curry houses and members of our diaspora communities face having to deal with a second-class immigration system while chefs from the EU can waltz into this country and straight into employment.

Patel was not the only politician to make grand promises. In 2016, Brexit minister David Davies hosted theBangladesh Caterers Association’s huge annual dinner, and he promised benefits for every community and that “there will be something for BCA.”

Post-Brexit, things don’t seem to be working out as promised. By January this year, May had refused to increase immigration to support Britain’s curry industry. Curry restaurants continue to close, squeezed by rising costs and staffing issues. In fact, it might have made things worse, with no change to non-EU visas while reducing the number of Eastern European staff, who were covering some of the shortfall (it is estimated 5-6,000 of 150,000 curry workers are Eastern European, and maybe as many as 10,000). The falling pound has also meant higher costs to import ingredients.

In contrast to Patel’s offers, this year’s General Election brought further promises from the Conservatives to reduce immigration, along with a levy of £2000 for every business employing foreign workers.

Restaurant owner Oli Khan felt ‘betrayed’: “It is very disappointing that Brexit campaigners such as Priti Patel and Boris Johnson, who said the curry industry would be better off the EU, have not kept their promises.” Pasha Khandaker, president of the Bangladesh Caterers Association said that, “My organisation supported Brexit for several reasons but the main reason was to bring people from abroad to help our industry to survive.”

It remains to be seen what the effects of this ‘betrayal’ is, but with the referendum won, there is less attempt to communicate with the curry-houses. According to Oli Khan ““We are angry as the Brexit ministers are not responding to our calls, they are not responding to our mails.””



The last time I went to Liverpool was in the 90s, with my Dad and sister. I’d just discovered the Beatles and wanted to visit the city they came from. We found very little trace of the band, other than a few small memorials.

On my most recent visit to Liverpool, last year, the Beatles’ heritage was being properly exploited. On Mathew Street there were three Cavern Clubs and a statue of John Lennon. I walked past all of these because, on this trip to Liverpool, I was looking for the manhole outside what the old ‘Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun’. This is said to be a very special manhole. To quote Bill Drummond:

[The interstellar ley line] comes careering in from outer space, hits the world in Iceland, bounces back up, writhing about like a conger eel, then down Mathew Street in Liverpool where the Cavern Club – and latterly Eric’s – is. Back up, twisting, turning, wriggling across the face of the earth until it reaches the uncharted mountains of New Guinea, where it shoots back into space… this interstellar ley line is a mega-powered one. Too much power coming down it for it not to writhe about. The only three fixed points on earth it travels through are Iceland, Mathew Street in Liverpool and New Guinea. Wherever something creatively or spiritually mega happens anywhere else on earth, it is because this interstellar ley line is momentarily powering through the territory.

This manhole is holy ground, of a sort. It is the location that appeared in a dream of Carl Jung (who never actually visited Liverpool). Bill Drummond stood for 17 hours on that manhole cover the day before his 60th birthday. In 2008, Julian Cope busked on this spot for a day. As Cat Vincent writes, the manhole had become “a site for connecting to the watery powers of the Pool of Life”.

It was good to stand there for a minute.

Bill Drummond by Tracy Moberly
Bill Drummond by Tracy Moberly

Passionate Machine!

Given that this is my response to a show about time-travel, it’s ironic that it’s as late as it is. I also have a weird feeling, as if it might not be the only time that I’ve written this. There could be other timelines where I’m also writing descriptions of the events – or where I managed to post them sooner.

So, obviously Rosy Carrick’s show Passionate Machine, was amazing. I mean, I’d say that even if it wasn’t (if you want a more objective review, check out the one from the Brighton Argus). Hopefully, I can persuade you there were many other things that made it great, not just that I want to stay friends with her. The show describes a strange period in Rosy’s life where she received messages that could only come from the future, sent by a mysterious figure. These messages related to Rosy’s PhD research into the great Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.

Rosy’s show was spoken word rather than poetry, and incorporated video footage and images (as well as an audio recording of me). Watching it I was impressed at what Rosy had done with the one-man-show. It’s a lot more interesting than someone simply standing up and reciting things. She’d used the format to its limit, for example handing envelopes of evidence to the audience as they arrived. There are also some moving moments showing how  people had responded to the story online.

The performance we saw was a work-in-progress, but it was pretty much complete and incredibly moving. I liked that the show did not get bogged down in the mechanics of time travel, taking it for granted and working with that. The resulting story is more personal and emotional than a lot of similar portrayals. As the show explains, we are all time-travellers in a sense, relentlessly pushed forward, able only to send messages forwards. Rosy has had a very different experience.

For me it’s a very different show than for most of the audience, as I was around for a lot of it. Rosy talks about the university course where she first discovered Vladimir Mayakovsky. Rosy was, apparently exasperated by my foolish questions in that class, but warmed to me when we chatted. I ended up looking after her pet cat Squeaky one Easter while I wrote an term paper on Wuthering Heights and, later, a chunk of my dissertation. We’ve been friends since then, through all sorts of adventures. And a lot of Rocky films.



My chilli plant is a dick

Right now, I’m not entirely sure where my chilli plant is. I’m not sure this is a bad thing.

Back in March, I planted about 20 chilli seeds from a batch that my friend Rosanna gave me. Only one of these sprouted. But it grew into a massive plant and, for a time, I felt smug at my skill.

Growing plants was a big deal for me. People sometimes told me a few green things would make my house seem warmer and more welcoming, but I didn’t want the responsibility of plants. The one time I was given one, by my friend Teresa, I had the sad duty of watching it die and wither, despite my efforts.

I almost killed this plant a couple of times. While I was away for 5 nights on the Pennine way, my house sitter cancelled. I arrived home just in time to find the plant almost dead. Looking after another living thing makes you aware of the true fragility of life.


I almost killed the plant on one of the hottest days of the year, when it was between the window and the curtain, roasting in the trapped heat. In a few hours it had dried out precariously. But it survived and even flowered. Then the the flowers kept dropping off, littering the shelf around. But there was no sign of fruit.

I checked back on Rosanna’s instructions: Put it in a 9″ pot, if you haven’t done already, and keep it wet. If it’s dropping flowers (without leaving little chilli-nubs behind) then it’s unhappy. Either the pot is too small, or it’s too dry, underfed, or too wet (the latter is unlikely).

One problem was that I’d somehow bought a 7 inch plant-pot, not a nine inch one, so that was quickly fixed, but it didn’t help. Chillis are considered to be one of the easier things to grow. Growing what is, essentially, a garnish, is proving so tough that it amazes me that someone, somewhere is growing enough plants to keep me alive.

With all the travel I’ve been doing lately, I had to find someone else to look after the plant. The photo at the top of the page shows me carrying the plant across Hove. And, a few days after the plant left my house, I received a video from the friend looking after it. The blurry short piece of footage reveals something unexpected. Look close at the centre of the picture and you can just about make it out.

Among the leaves is a tiny green Scotch bonnet pepper. The minute my back is turned, a fruit appears. All this grief for a single pepper, when I could buy a fresh one for pennies. A whole pound would buy me a bottle of Encona. It seems a lot of work for little payback.

The friend who was caring for the plant is away for a few weeks, and I’m not sure if they’ve made arrangements. Maybe they’ve given the plant to someone else to look after.

My lounge does feel emptier without her though, and it would be easy to be reunited. I really should find out where my chilli plant has got to.