Showing posts with label Curry Union. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Curry Union. Show all posts

Saturday, 30 March 2013


by Colin Bloom

According to the BBC website, an Indian restaurant in Surrey has created a "not for bunnies" Easter egg using three of the hottest varieties of chilli pepper.

Using a ghost chilli, a scotch bonnet and a habanera in the egg, it is said to be up to 10 times hotter than a vindaloo or equal to 400 bottles of Tabasco sauce. It is so hot that diners must wear protective gloves before touching it.

Regular readers will know about the Curry Union, an adventure into creating relationships with some of societies most marginal people via the medium of spicy food.

Some of our guests are street drinkers and rough sleepers, and knowing them as I do, this chilli Easter Egg would be treated as a palate cleanser! If anyone would like to buy one of these eggs and donate it to the Curry Union, let me know!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


by Colin Bloom

This morning the BBC are reporting that the NHS are going to insist that newly qualified Nurses will have to first practice as Health Care Assistants (HCAs). Here is the quote:

Nurses will have to spend time as healthcare assistants doing basic tasks such as washing and dressing before completing their degree training, ministers are proposing.


Language is so important, how we use language is usually a good indicator of our feelings toward our subject. Let me put it like this, would you rather have someone feed you, or would you rather be assisted in eating a meal? If you are an older person with poor mobility, would you rather be helped to get changed or do you want someone dressing you? It might have the same outcome, but the attitude is totally different.

It is about dignity, respect and personal assistance. Mechanical terms like 'feeding' 'dressing' 'cleaning' conjure such distant, dis-empowering images. We need a renaissance of caring for, not doing for.

At the Curry Union we enjoy meals with street drinkers, rough sleepers, rent boys, prostitutes and crack addicts; people on the outer fringes of our community  We don't 'feed' 'them' like animals at a zoo; we enjoy a meal with our guests. The language we use is important because it humanises the person we are with, it doesn't break them down to a task.

So, I fully support Jeremy Hunt's plans, they will be good for the NHS. However, I'd like to see the BBC and others choose their words more carefully.

Sunday, 24 March 2013


by Colin Bloom

Three years ago I gathered some friends together from church and we began an epic journey of spicy discovery into the world of rough sleepers, street drinkers and curry. Our vehicle on this journey is called the Curry Union.

It all started when as a volunteer at a soup kitchen I thought I was helping people who had a deficit of food, but soon realised that the people who needed the services of the soup kitchen had a greater deficit of relationships.

The folk who ran the soup kitchen were great people, but their work had become an institution that kept the institutionalised institutionalised. It became an exercise in getting as many cheap calories into someone as quickly as possible - a paper plate with a dollop of mashed potato and dollop of sausage stew, all washed down with some highly diluted  orange squash - before they were ushered back into the night.

At the Curry Union we have always been determined to treat our guests like Kings and Queens; we have crisp linen, tea lights, china, glass and only the freshest and highest quality ingredients (fairtrade where possible). We cook curry, a lot of it, and we love it. However, the most important thing we do is build great friendships with people who don't seem to have many best mates.

After serving thousands of curries, we have never really had any problems despite often having more than fifty rough sleeping and street drinking guests at a time. On our first evening together and at every subsequent meal, I have told our diners that we have just three rules; no drink, no drugs and be nice to each other. The genius of this is that everyone, even people with poor English, have understood these simple rules and we have all got on with each other without too many problems.

Perhaps the brilliance of this is because of its simplicity. Everyone knows what you mean when you say no drink, everyone understands what you mean when you say no drugs and being nice to each other seems to be universally understood too. Keeping things simple, means we can concentrate on the important things like enjoying each others company and eating tasty, spicy dishes.

If I've learnt anything in life it's that the simpler the message, the better it is understood. So take my advice, keep it simple. The next time you embark on a project remember our no drink, no drugs and be nice to each other rule; and when you've completed your task treat yourself to a bhuna, dopiaza or madras.

You can follow the Curry Union on Twitter by clicking here

Thursday, 21 March 2013


by Colin Bloom

Much of my life has been spent dealing, in one way or another, with society's problems. As a Street Pastor, I've been up close and personal to almost everything that a rowdy Friday night can imagine. As the founder of the rough sleeper project the Curry Union, I am often on the streets dealing with the politics of the streets. In the middle of the last decade, I spent four years as Chairman of one of the largest and most successful CDRPs in London, much of that time was spent looking at problems associated with the night time economy.

(Statutorily all Unitary Authority should have something called a Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP), it's a strategic body made up of the heads of the local Police, Fire Brigade, Council, Ambulance Service, Public Health and similar local bodies.)

Drunkenness and the rise in alcohol related diseases is getting a lot of attention at the moment. Whilst the Lancet is estimating 210,000 preventable deaths in the next 20 years, in a prelaunch of the Government's forthcoming alcohol strategy, David Cameron gave a speech about the "scandal" of drunkenness and alcohol abuse that costs the NHS £2.7 billion a year. He posited the idea of US style 'drunk tanks' - cells to keep the inebriated in overnight; and it seemed until recently all but certain that the Government would be following Scotland's lead in introducing some kind of minimum pricing for alcohol.

Whilst the rise in alcohol addiction and problem drinkers is a scandal, and things like minimum prices, drunk tanks and tougher trading standards are all good tools to have in the tool box; nobody is seriously thinking that by themselves they will solve the problem. The challenge is complex, and in truth is linked to most of our other big intractables; it will neither be fixed through a single strategy, nor will it be overcome quickly. After all, this is not exactly a new dilemma; more than a hundred years ago the co-founder of the Salvation Army, Catherine Booth was doing something about the "scandal" of alcohol, and using much braver terms than any public figure would dare to use now. Maybe we need a Catherine Booth in the Cabinet.

It is probably truer now than in Booth's time that everyone feels the effects that drink has on society. Unless you lock yourself away in your home, never go out and never turn on your telly or listen to the radio, the issue of booze is ubiquitous. For many blokes like me though, we have become totally inured to seeing men the worse for wear and behaving badly; of course I don't condone that behaviour, but I suspect we have some empathy with what's going on. However, try as we might to be very PC and equal about the subject, we can't bring ourselves to be indifferent about the relatively new phenomenon of young women getting trolleyed, smashed, blitzed, caned or worse.

A few Friday's ago, the night before the snow came, I was making my way home. It was cold, very cold; and along with some guys just like me sporting scarves, thick overcoats and briefcases we stood standing shivering at the bus stop heading for the 'burbs. All around us are a number of what are known as 'vertical drinking establishments', pubs with little or nowhere to sit, places that sell fizzy foreign lager and vodka based fruit drinks that have names dreamed up by marketing executives to sound 'wicked'.

Every night I stand at a bus stop and every night there are incidents which fall within the range between loud boorish behaviour and police sirens with street fighting. This is in an affluent area of London which is, if the crime statistics are to be believed, one of the safest places to live in the Capital; even so, every night I think up plans of upping sticks and moving the family out to the, err, sticks.

One particular night recently, a pair of boisterous starlets obviously the worse for drink teetered past, wearing what appeared to be dental floss. Such was their shivering orange hue that they looked like they had fallen out of Peter Hain's bathroom cabinet and then into a chest freezer; and in truth their make up probably weighed more than their outfits. I'm sure they were lovely, but that night they were a sad mess.

This is not an uncommon site around my way, but it was all the more incongruous because the sub zero temperature was making their skin resemble the flesh of freshly plucked carrot fed chickens. It was a tragic scene of girls wanting to be beautiful and attractive, when in reality they just looked cold and pitiful.

And then began a ten minute conversation between four complete strangers at a bus stop, all fathers of young daughters, about the plight of young drunk women.

"That's someone's daughter," one of the chaps at the bus stop muttered.

"I wouldn't let my girls out like that," said another.

"Look at the state of them. It's not an attractive look," said a third.

"But what can be done about it?" I ask.

Unsurprisingly, and since we all rated ourselves as responsible and wise parents, we hit upon the novel idea that these young ladies needed better fathers. For sure there will be some uncontrollable daughters, who have great dads that are pulling their hair out at the behaviour of their offspring, but it was obvious to us at the bus stop that most of these girls simply needed better Dads. Men that would tell their daughters that they were more beautiful sober, and much prettier when they dressed more modestly.

There is nothing attractive about being drunk; the lies of the wicked marketing men, need to be replaced by the paternal advice of a loving father. Will this problem be solved by Government? Probably not. Could it be solved by better Fathers? Possibly.

On this point, I'm sure David Cameron would agree.