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The Sweet Taste of Success

Under starters orders…

The sixth Plumstead Pickle Festival hosted a varied array of 15 chutneys and pickles. As it isn’t clear what the difference is between a chutney and pickle it is an established tradition that all entries are peer judged alongside each other without differentiation – after all, it all goes down the same hole. An estimated 35 locals came along to sample what was on offer.

A break from the serious job of adding up scores

By now, the voting system, adjusted last year to include the category of texture, is familiar to most, with no more than 5 points being allocated between up to 5 entries in each section. Butter, biscuits and cheese were all pre-prepared and issued to tables to accompany the various offerings. No bread though, too much was wasted last time. Voting slips and pens followed shortly afterwards. Meanwhile a food-related soundtrack played in the background to add to the atmos generated by a well-liked niche event attended by a cross-section of Plumsteadites discussing the merits and demerits of everything on their plates.

Erik in full flow

First for Appearance

Second for Appearance

Third for Appearance

First for Taste

Second for Taste

Third for Taste

First for Texture

Second for Texture

Third for Texture

Erik provided the whimsical banter while the scores were totted up and told a chutney-related gag too dire to be worth repeating here. Dee and Geoff were i/c the laptop to quickly add up the scores, and Kevin was called upon to write out the winning certificates once the results were known. Rob was on hand to take photographs and record the event for posterity. This time there were some new winners which mixed things up a bit as well as seasoned regulars being placed. Anyone determined to do better next time would be well advised to make next year’s entry now and store it in a cool dark place to mature.

All tasted and judged

Passionate about Conceptual Art

Art Plumstead take Conceptual Art very seriously, to the extent that an evening is devoted to it every Plumstravaganza in the garden of The Volunteer. This year’s entries were more in the spirit of the movement in that the artefacts were relatively simple, and had to be explained for them to make sense. As usual, Alison as curator of the exhibition was suitably attired for the occasion (see above).

Themes covered a range of social and political issues, quite serious at times but without being too po-faced. it was Monday night, after all. For instance there was a short interactive performance piece involving the audience’s consumption of passion fruit, symbolising the inadequate protection of historical buildings by outdated protocols – shown by a flimsy basket made from an old magazine – which, once they are disposed of or destroyed can never be recovered.

 

The magic piece of glass highlighted the way in which it becomes possible to place one’s bum very close to someone’s face in a public situation which wouldn’t normally be acceptable when seated on the tube or DLR. The Death in Greenwich exhibit was a comment on the environmental damage wrought by cruise ships arriving at Greenwich. Erik improvised a skit about house buying with reference to a bird box that just happened to be lying around the garden along with a brimful ashtray. There was a presentation about who should be consigned to a Wicker Man for their relentless unnecessary questions, an exposition about the meaning of the letter yaz in the Berber alphabet, and a tongue-in-cheek funding bid for a series of sculptures made from found objects in multiple locations covering the themes of loss, bereavement, separation and regret.

After all the exhibits had been explained and discussed, it was time to mingle and make plans for Halloween, before making the epic journey up the hill to The Old Mill where Dee blagged a selection of bar snacks to help us concentrate.

Dipping into The Spiral Garden again

The Spiral Garden hosted another swap/sell/donate event as part of Plumstravaganza. The early arrivals had the chance to taste a delicious German apple cake with crumble topping made by Maggie, washed down with a cup of coffee. Soon, however, there were brown turkey figs and crystal apple cucumbers (a heritage variety bred in Australia in 1933) from people’s gardens to sample as well. The home made raspberry jam was sold in a trice by those who already knew how good it was from last year.

A good selection of assorted plants to swap or to buy were brought into the garden by visitors and before long the central table was covered in a sea of foliage before gradually dwindling as purchases were made and plants were found a new home.
Numbers were up on last year and those who came stayed for longer than last year, seeking advice and exchanging information, but also enjoying the social occasion. The power of the social media helped to pull in people from different sources but the Art Plumstead mailing list played its part. There were flyers advertising Good Food in Greenwich and the Cookery Clubs offered by GCDA, held down by painted stones, such a big thing everywhere last year, and revived latterly by a public spirited soul in Plumstead

Spiral Remembers 100 years on

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A lone poppy at Spiral Garden

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Art Plumstead created a remembrance display in collaboration with two local Plumstead schools on the 100th  anniversary of the end of WW1.

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Art Plumstead Poppy

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Seen from above

In addition to the outline of a poppy made from stones painted by Art Plumstead and arranged to be visible from the street above, there were also stones painted by pupils from Gallions Mount Primary School. These were placed on the upper level of the garden.

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Gallions Mount Poppy before…

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Gallions Mount Poppy after…

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Gallions Mount Poppy brightening up a dull corner

Rockliffe Manor Primary School provided paper poppies which had been part of a special assembly earlier that day. These were displayed on the circular table in the middle of the Spiral Garden.

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Paper poppies made by Rockliffe Manor School pupils

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Poppies at the Spiral Garden

Rain swept over from the west later on Friday and fell on everything in its path, but not before the entire display had been captured on camera.

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Volunteering to Share Ideas

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The blood, sweat and tears of everyone involved in planning Plumstead Make Merry

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Conceptual Art is a serious business

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The first concept is explained

Art Plumstead hosted its second pop up Conceptual Art show in the garden of the Volunteer on Plumstead High Street. When it was launched last year, the intention had been to debunk the idea of conceptual art by sending it up. In the event, all the pieces had been carefully considered and encouraged serious thought and discussion.

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Mottainai – tribute to Japan or cultural appropriation?

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How to have a reasonable debate

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Plumstead – please don’t judge a book by its cover!

This year an equally thought-provoking collection of exhibits was assembled with displays exploring the power and meaninglessness of advertising, waste in the fast fashion industry, the unfairness of judging a book by its cover, how something entirely false can be used to accomplish positive ends and the dichotomy between the desirability of slimness in one part of the world compared to another. A good proportion of the exhibits didn’t seek to establish one absolute view over another but to air an idea and encourage a balanced opinion. The pictures and text can only hint at the meaning behind the art pieces presented on the evening, and the only way to fully appreciate them was to have been there.

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Same world, different problems

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So, which one came first?

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They are their own work of art

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Real or fake – and does it really matter?

By the end of the evening, a range of theories had been aired and examined through animated conversation, all accompanied by a drink or two. There was plenty of non-art related chatter at the same time because after all, participation in Plumstravaganza is entirely voluntary.

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Luckily, Alison was on hand to see that no Crimes against Art were committed

 

 

Early Harvest at The Spiral Garden

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The Spiral Garden hosted a drop in swap and share session as part of Plumstravaganza 2018. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, sunny without being oppressive, and its location next to Plumstead Common Nature Reserve added to the pleasant ambience. A steady stream of visitors came by, either to try the different herbs that grow on the site, or to donate or sell their produce. Many were visiting the Spiral Garden for the first time or remembered it when it had been a children’s play area.

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There were two huge bags of conference pears (Maggie took some at the end to make pear pickle for the Plumstead Pickle Festival in December) and home made raspberry jam for sale, packed with fruit. There was a box of very large eating apples and home grown spuds, and plenty of organic garlic and onions from GCDA’s garden site at Woolwich Dockyard, one of several run as part of Growing Greenwich. Someone brought several sprigs of ginger rosemary which encouraged those present to take some home and try to strike cuttings from it, by placing tips in water. The rest will be dried and the needles rubbed off for experimenting with, probably to make a syrup for flavouring drinks.

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For refreshment, every visitor was offered three drinks on arrival; the first being water flavoured  with salad burnet to give it a light cucumber taste. Next, apple juice to which sweet woodruff had been added. Sweet woodruff when crushed quickly develops an almond flavour and is a key ingredient in May Bowl, a traditional German recipe. Finally, an infusion of Moroccan Mint, as served in Turkish restaurants. Meanwhile there were small savoury biscuits made with chives and winter savoury which proved popular. Also well liked were the oriental mustard leaves growing freely in one of the beds. Small pots of herbs, including some used to flavour the drinks were available to take away. As if that weren’t enough, there were several home made lavender bags and packets of seeds to take home and try. The new banner for the Community Market at St Mark’s Hall was briefly unveiled while packing up and pronounced splendid. It will have its first official outing on Saturday 15th September when the Market recommences.

See Good Food in Greenwich for more details.

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Plumstead Pickle Festival IV – hard cheese !

Pickle 17 table

The fourth Plumstead Pickle Festival took place on the same first Tuesday of December at the same venue (The Old Mill) but there were a few changes to simplify the process. There was no distinction between pickles and chutneys this year, and only one jar was required per entrant instead of an additional display jar for appearance. This meant anyone with a leftover single jar lurking in the back of the sideboard from a previous year could try their luck with a more mature offering, since chutney benefits from being at least 3 months old before opening.

Pickle 17 queue

Each entry was judged on its appearance on the plate and its taste, unlike in previous years when texture and recipe were appraised as well. Bread, butter, cubes of mature Cheddar cheese, paper plates and pens were issued to each table along with the voting slips for appearance, before everyone present was invited to come to the table in an orderly manner and begin sampling. There were 16 anonymous jars identified only by a letter, which meant there were a variety of ways to arrange the samples and number them for tasting.

Pickle 17 plate

Pickle 17 judges

In another simplification of the voting process there were only up to five marks per category to be awarded by each taster as they wished across up to five chutneys or pickles in any combination of points. Halfway through the evening the results for appearance were announced before the voting slips for taste were sent round. In theory, it might be possible for an entrant to get all their supporters to give their entry 5 points in each category and unduly influence the result, but with well over 60 people in the pub, voting for anonymous jars that doesn’t seem likely. It means the highest scoring recipes really are the people’s favourite – and conversely the least popular are not appreciated which is a bitter pill to swallow as an unsuccessful entrant (hence the hard cheese reference in the title) but I was there on the night, and while not everything I tasted was entirely to my taste, there was nothing too horrible to eat!  It was certainly a suitable setting to promote Good Food In Greenwich and The Spiral Garden, the local community garden in Vicarage Park.

Pickle 17 Ray writes certificates

Pickle 17 3rd Appearance

Pickle 17 2nd Appearance

Pickle 1st Appearance

Pickle 17 3rd pos

Pickle 2nd pos

Pickle 17 1st pos

Pickle 17 table close up

 

 

 

 

 

Midsummer Crawl 2017- Oak to Holly

IMAG0058IMG_1100What did you do on the hottest June day for 40 years? No-one knew exactly what to expect for the second Midsummer Crawl, even those who were in on the planning, but the outline of events was in place. As before, we convened at the Apni Haveli (formerly the Woodman) opposite an oak tree for initial mingling before the assembled party read out snippets of information about how Midsummer is celebrated in various countries round the world. These gave an inkling of what was to follow. Then came the adorning of the willow headdresses which culminated in revealing John as the Oak King, with Dee as his consort, The Goddess. It was explained that tonight they would consummate their union in an act so overwhelming that the Oak King would perish and be replaced by the Holly King who would steadily gain in power until midwinter. Needless to say, there was a fair amount of innuendo throughout the evening.

Midsummer 2017 blowing bubblesMidsummer 2017 walking by Sladeimag0059.jpgThereupon all set off, blowing bubbles on the way, to the Who’d a Thought It up the road. The activity here was for the women to gather names of 9 sacred herbs written on small cards which The Goddess had strewn around the garden. Meanwhile, the men drew lots. On the women’s return the couples were matched up, willow rings were exchanged and the Oak King declared them married, since fake marriages are a Midsummer custom in some parts of the world. Meanwhile, the other customers looked on with amusement, and one bloke came over to introduce himself, see above. Once Dee had shown everyone how to dance a simple dance step, the parade danced via the back roads towards The Star, to the accompaniment of wrist bells for the ladies and The King’s Knee Tremblers* for the men, and with natural confetti showering all around. Here, we picked up a few extra punters and chatted up the locals who wondered what on earth we were doing.

Midsummer 2107 Erik reading poetry The Star

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Feasting Swedish-style on herring, new potatoes and sour cream with dill

At The Star, Erik read several Midsummer poems in the garden, including audience participation, then joss sticks were lit for the journey to The Ship. Here, the activity was to draw effigies of witches, bulls, cocks and cats. These were duly burnt in a small tin, and while the women practiced jumping, the men prepared the Midsummer Fire. In reality, this was a trio of tealights in a facsimile of a fire pit, but it served the purpose. Once everyone had jumped over the fire thrice, The Oak King led us to the holly tree that stands adjacent to the Rugby Club. After a quick group rendition of various animal noises with an ‘authentic’ Swedish accent, the old year was wound down by walking three times clockwise round the holly tree, before the new year was wound up by walking three times anticlockwise, accompanied by the hullabaloo of bellowing animal cries. As with so many Art Plumstead open air events, those who wished to, adjourned to The Old Mill.

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Preparing to jump the fire

*these are made from can lids lashed together like castanets and secured to the knee with knicker elastic from the £1 shop. They make a splendid clattering noise and are ideal for drawing attention to oneself.

Plumstead Make Merry 2017

Plumstead Make Merry (40)Art Plumstead showcased the creative skills of regular attendees of Andrew’s Watercolour classes with a selection of hand-painted cards and local scenes which flew off the stall; sometimes literally, since the weather, although gloriously hot, had occasional gusts of wind. Luckily, there were enough volunteers to keep an eye on the stall and its contents, and retrieve any stray works.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPicMonkey Collage Plumstead Make Merry 6Later they were joined by Liz who entertained the children with a puppet show depicting the adventures of a crab who found the courage to make a journey to the blinged up crystal rocks at the bottom of the sea. It was an original and amusing way to deliver the message of respect for the environment.

Make Merry 2017 Veg Comp AllMake Merry 2017 Veg Comp All JudgingMeanwhile, in the information tent, Erik and Dee had been receiving entries for the vegetable carving competition. The theme was local people and places. The new, streamlined ballot system was aimed at encouraging voters to choose only one sculpture as their favourite piece, then move away so others could make their selection.

Make Merry 2017 Veg Comp Helicopter

Make Merry 2017 Veg Comp John de Morgan

Make Merry 2017 Veg Comp Steve Davis

Make Merry 2017 Veg Comp hand sculpture

Make Merry 2017 Veg Comp MPs

There were any number of local stalls and activities, hordes of visitors and anyone involved will say it was a very successful Make Merry 2017.

PicMonkey Collage Plumstead Make Merry 4

 

 

The Ten Trees of Workhouse Wood

IMG_0705It was a beautiful sunny day when Kevin and Andrew met John and Dee at the top of the steps into Workhouse Wood. In a short while, more explorers had joined them. They were going to have an adventure!

Down, down, down they went into Workhouse Wood. No sooner had they gone down a few steps than they found a scattering of petals on the ground – dainty white elderflowers, bright yellow hawkweed and pretty pink dog roses.

A tiny, tinkling bell rang out. Ting-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling! They looked up. A queer piece of golden yarn had been tied to the first tree in the Tree Trail, an English Oak. It was rather mysterious.

Kevin said, “I know what has happened. The elves must have seen me walking around the wood last week. I expect they have tied golden yarn to all the trees on the Tree Trail.”

IMG_0725Sure enough, when they arrived at the next tree, the merry, tinkling bells rang out, and there was – yes, a tiny piece of golden yarn on the old Hawthorn Tree, tied in a bow. The mischievous elves were playing a trick. They had even tied a thread to a tree that was not on the trail, a Field Maple.

Kevin said, “The elves are laughing at us, but they have helped us, too. Do you see how the leaves are similar to the Sycamore next to it, but they are not the same. They are more rounded.”

They walked further on. The woods were lovely and cool. Presently, they came to a sort of clearing. The sun shone down on the path. It was simply enchanting. Soon they had reached the great Horse Chestnut Tree, then a dear little Cherry Tree. In a trice they had tied a card to the branches to help visitors know more about the trees.

IMG_0732They rubbed the leaves of the Western Red Cedar Tree. They smelt of delicious pineapple! At every tree they visited, the merry, tinkling bells rang out. (It was the elves laughing). Try as they might, they could not see the elves. They were hiding.

When they had walked past the Holly Tree and the Elder Tree, they looked over and saw that some of the logs in the Forest Schools clearing had been scorched rather badly. Some naughty children must have set fire to them. I think their nannies ought to smack them, don’t you?

At last they came to the end of the Trail. It had been good fun and they had had a busy day. They had learned a lot about trees and Workhouse Wood. It was time to go to the pub. They went to The Old Mill and talked about politics and the education system. They made plans for the Make Merry and the Midsummer Crawl. Then it was time to go home.

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