Monday, 30 May 2011

Gazpacho Soup FAIL

LOL! Covent Garden seem to have slightly lost the plot here, providing heating instructions for Gazpacho soup! I hope nobody follows them.

Blimey, even Delia knows that this soup should be CHILLED. That said, it was jolly pleasant. Could use a tad more garlic for my taste, but otherwise, it’s pretty close to how it should be, having eaten plenty of it in Spain.

Gazpacho Soup FAIL

Celebrity Shilling

imageWhat’s with this country nowadays that nobody has their own taste and opinion and they can’t even decide what to like unless some celebrity says so?

Case in point: I made a cake today (OK, only from a packet mix) and the instructions said to beat it with an electric mixer.

Well, I don’t have one and I don’t have a lot of strength and ability left in my wrists and hands now either, so after a few seconds of manual beating, my wrists were tired, my hands hurt and I wished I did have an electric beater.

So, off to Amazon / eBay to look for one … for next time.

And I’m met with an array of kitchen gadgets advertised as Delia’s cheats (although, I don’t see this a cheating: more of a *disability aid*), or marketed under the name of some so-called celebrity chef like Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Antony Worrall Thompson, Marco Pierre White, James Martin, etc.

This, of course, is a win-win situation for the manufacturer who appears to get a celebrity endorsement and for the celebrity who’s paid to shill the said piece of junk. The only losers, of course, are we consumers, who inevitably pay more for the appliance than we would have if no name was attached to it.

But I think what riles me most about this situation is that, in order to market these items and shift enough of them off shelves to make a profit, these manufacturers seem to think that they need to treat us like idiots.

Do they honestly think that no *mere mortal members of the public* have ever been in a professional kitchen? (There’s enough *ordinary folk* being exploited to make cheap reality TV programs – including the cookery ones – to prove otherwise.) Because, as anyone who has ever been inside a professional kitchen (or is in possession of a bit of common sense) will know, the likelihood of any professional chef using a £20 plastic mixer in their busy professional kitchen is pretty close to the same as finding hen’s teeth or rocking horse poo!

There probably are people who believe that said celebrity actually uses the appliance in question. There are also probably not a few who actually believe (or at least hope) that the said item does possess the necessary qualities of robustness that is inferred by inferring professional use.

To me this seems deliberately misleading, dishonest and morally wrong.

What’s next, hookers advertising themselves by the name of the footballer they last shagged? Oh, sorry, that already happens, doesn’t it? Smile

One upon a time a decent brand name was enough. That’s what I want: a brand know for it’s quality, not merely for its associations with the latest in a long line of professional marketers. This has become impossible to buy, because reading the reviews, they’re full of stories like, “We just replaced the one we got as a wedding present 37 years ago …”, but “this last 9 months.”

That’s not just a decline in quality and standards, it’s taking in-built obsolescence and waste to a criminal level. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I thought we were supposed to be reducing waste, recycling, being green …

Sunday, 29 May 2011

What is it like to have severe ME? Emily's story

"Severe ME is utterly devastating. It's time for proper research and proper care". That is the simple, but vitally important message that Emily is desperate for the world to hear. Beginning months ago, she has written a letter which she ho...pes will spread her message across the Internet and garner support for those severely affected by ME. Please help her achieve this.

(Permission to re-post)

Emily's Appeal

It has been said that the following is hard to read. But that is all we ask you to do: to read it, to forward/re-post it and to pledge your support for the many thousands of people like Emily who have to LIVE it.

"My name is Emily. I developed the neurological condition Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) when I was 6 years old. In April 2011 I turned 30. I still have ME.

ME coloured every aspect of my childhood; it painfully restricted my teens and it completely destroyed my twenties. Now, as I move into the next decade of my life, I am more crippled than ever by this horrific disease.

My doctors tell me that I have been pushed to the greatest extremes of suffering that illness can ever push a person. I have come very close to dying on more than one occasion. If you met me you may well think I was about to die now - it's like that every single day. After all these years I still struggle to understand how it's possible to feel so ill so relentlessly.

My reaction to small exertions and sensory stimulation is extreme. Voices wafting up from downstairs, a brief doctor's visit, a little light, all can leave me with surging pain, on the verge of vomiting, struggling with each breath and feeling I'll go mad with the suffering. Of course it can also be as bad as this for no particular reason - and often is. I cannot be washed, cannot raise my head, cannot have company, cannot be lifted from bed, cannot look out of the window, cannot be touched, cannot watch television or listen to music - the list is long.

ME has made my body an agonising prison.

My days and nights are filled with restless sleep interspersed with injections, needle changes (for a syringe driver), nappy changes (as well as experiencing transient paralysis and at times being blind and mute, I am doubly incontinent) and medicines/fluid being pumped into my stomach through a tube. My life could be better if I had a Hickman line (line which goes into a major vein and sits in the heart) for IV drugs and fluids, but such a thing would likely kill me. I'm on a huge cocktail of strong medications which help, yet still most days the suffering is incomprehensible. During the worst hours I may go without the extra morphine I need as I feel so ill that the thought of my mother coming near to administer it is intolerable - this despite pain levels so high that I hallucinate.

I live in constant fear of a crisis driving me into hospital; our hospitals have shown such lack of consideration for the special needs of patients like me that time spent in hospital is torture (eased only by the incredible kindness shown by some nurses and doctors) and invariably causes further deterioration.

Many days I feel utter despair.

But, unlike some sufferers, over the long years in which I've had severe ME (the illness began mildly and has taken a progressive course) I have at least had periods of respite from the absolute worst of it. During those periods I was still very ill, but it was possible to enjoy something of life. So in these dark days I know there is a real chance of better times ahead and that keeps me going.

My entire future, and the greatly improved health I so long for, however, currently hinges on luck alone. This is wrong. As I lie here, wishing and hoping and simply trying to survive, I (and the thousands like me - severe ME is not rare) should at least have the comfort of knowing that there are many, many well-funded scientists and doctors who are pulling out all the stops in the quest to find a treatment which may restore my health and that the NHS is doing all possible to care for me as I need to be cared for - but I don't. This wretched, ugly disease is made all the more so through the scandalous lack of research into its most severe form and the lack of necessary, appropriate support for those suffering from it. This is something that must change.

And that is why I tell my story; why I fight my painfully debilitated body to type this out on a smartphone one difficult sentence at a time and to make my appeal to governments, funders, medical experts and others:

Please put an end to the abandonment of people with severe ME and give us all real reason to hope."

By Emily Collingridge 2010-2011

You can support Emily and everyone with severe ME by joining the "Severe ME/CFS: A Guide to Living" Facebook group Both sufferers and non sufferers welcome! See also

Sunday, 22 May 2011

After the rapture

I laughed so hard, now I need to go change my knickers!

Via: Richard Dawkins Foundation

Friday, 20 May 2011

Living ONE AWAY from Financial Crisis

This video may be about the situation in the US, but this is also the reality for many in the UK too and will apply to more and more people as benefit cuts hit.

It could apply to you too if you become ill, are involved in an accident, loose your job. It could be your parent or grandparent. Is this what we want?

Via: Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness

Thursday, 5 May 2011

What’s the alternative?

imageSo, I went out today with the intention of voting for the Green Party and Yes to AV. My efforts met with only a 50% success, however, as while I was able to vote Yes to AV, I couldn’t vote for a Green Party candidate, coz there wasn’t one.

What I hadn’t realised is that, while we have a Green Party candidate for MP in this area, clearly, there isn’t one at the local council level.

Now, I won’t even pretend to understand the election process as it stands, but I’m certainly convinced I was right to vote in favour of any sort of alternative (pity I’m likely in the minority), because, whatever the system is now, it strikes me as transparently unfair and absolutely loaded in favour of the Tories.

At the polling station I was handed 3 ballot papers. The AV one was simple enough with just yes or no choices (although, I guess that would have been something of a challenge for some of the electorate) and then there were the two other papers to vote for council members of some sort or other.

To be honest I didn’t pay that much attention to what the difference between the two papers was, besides their colour and that for one, it said that I could vote for up to two candidates and on the other up to four. And on the latter, there were a long list of conservative candidates and one LibDem.

Hobsons’s bloody choice then!

There may have been a Labour candidate on one paper, but both were equally Tory-heavy and I decided, by that point, not to encourage any of them.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Allow yourself to make the journey


“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all. From now on you’ll be traveling the road between who you think you are and who you can be. The key is to allow yourself to make the journey.”

— The Princess Diaries

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Another visit to Ermoupolis

Ermoupolis (which translates as the Town of Hermes), also known as "Queen of the Cyclades" or "The Noble Lady of the Aegean", is the cosmopolitan capital and port of the island of Syros in the Cyclades islands, Greece. It’s also the administrative centre for that group of islands, so it has *real life* and relatively little tourist appeal. Most visitors are Greek or just passing through on their way to other islands or seaside villages on Syros.

As I said in a previous post, recounting my visit in 1985, “My impression of Ermoupolis was a slightly Venetian flavoured (complete with decaying grandeur) junior Paris Sur Mer, only Greek, of course. With Greek island weather.” Venetian because Ano Syros, Syros’ second biggest town, was founded by the Venetians when they held the island in the 13th century and then there’s the Little Venice where the mansions meet the sea in the Vaporia district; un peu Parisienne not only because of it’s cosmopolitan air, but also because the island did enjoy French protection during the Greek revolution.

And the island of Syros is authentic Greek, not the package-tour variety with no real soul.
Modern Ermoupolis is what Garachico might be like if it still had it's deep water harbour where the big ships tie up right alongside the buildings in the centre of town and it’s marble-paved streets and had been given La Orotava's town hall. Yes, Garachico apparently had marble on one of it’s streets – that was covered in the eruption of 1706 – while Ermoupolis still has lots of them. The marble makes car tyres squeal and are a bugger to walk on in anything other than flat shoes with non-slip rubber soles, but that’s a small price to pay.

Ermoupolis Town Hall on Miaouli Square

Actually, the number of cars is the main thing I’ve noticed that is different between my fast fading 1985 images and those taken more recently (at least this century), but then that’s the same everywhere you go. While we're making comparisons with Tenerife – since it's what I and many of my friends will understand - the entire island of Syros (102.4 km2) is a whisker bigger than the municipality of Icod de los Vinos (95.90 km²), with a population of a little less at 19,782 (in 2001), as opposed to Icod's 22,358 (2003).

In Ermoupolis, buses all conveniently start and stop next to where the ferries dock and there are regular bus services connecting Ermoupolis to many of the other towns and villages on the island, from around 7am to 10pm. The buses are air-conditioned these days, which is probably a good thing, but I think I might still miss the type that were still running in the 1980’s, which bore a striking resemblance to this old Thornycroft and snaked chuggingly up and over the hills, 9km across the island to Kini. Their only concession to air-conditioned comfort was having the glass removed from the windows.

Ermoupolis has a wonderful market area where you can buy everyday supplies such as; fresh meat, fish, fruit & vegetables and freshly baked bread and cakes. Meanwhile, supermarkets advertise delivery services.

One of the things I miss most about Tenerife is the amazing fresh food; meat that actually tastes how it should do; fish that comes straight out of the sea; bananas from family plantations, vegetables straight from smallholdings where organic is the only way they’re grown & hand-made bread delivered to the door daily. Tenerife has a bus service that’s second to none and Icod de los Vinos warrants a bus station with space for around 10 buses, a shop and cafe.

Contrast these with another district with a similar population, New Milton, which is recorded as having a population of approximately 23,000 in 2001. Here, there’s only one proper bus route, between Lymington and Bournemouth (the last bus from either end is about 6 pm). Where this crosses with the shopper services that ply the local areas, there’s no attempt to coordinate the timetable to make changes convenient for users, like they do in Tenerife, so one would have to wait around in the cold or rain – well, I don’t. There’s no bus station and there’s only even a proper shelter and one seat on one side of the road. This “terminus” area isn’t even right in the high street or next to the train station, which would at least make it more useable and convenient. And laughingly, the last bus out to this particular outlying area of the district leaves just after 2 pm!

Tenerife is, of course, never short of fiesta and the port of Ermoupolis is constantly bustling, while the harbour front is a near permanent carnival in the evenings, there are bars of every kind, folk promenade in Miaouli Square, eat in the small restaurants and tavernas in the side streets, visit the theatre.

Our theatre seats 150: it’s not the copy of La Scala that Ermoupolis has. Here in the evening, if you don’t have a car, then there’s fuck all to do and fuck all public transport available to get to it. There isn’t even a pub in walking distance and it wouldn’t be safe to do so. When you compare the three, no matter what your views on this country, it’s pretty hard to avoid seeing how inadequate Britain’s services have become. My opinion of this country is pretty transparent – it’s sucks, I hate it – but I did think it probably still did a few things better; more organized and professional than in the relaxed “island time” cultures of the Mediterranean and beyond. Not so and it continues to shock and surprise me just how low it is sinking.

You Are Grape

imageYou are bold and a true individual. You are very different and very okay with that. People know you as a straight shooter. You're very honest, even when the truth hurts. You are also very grounded and practical. No one is going to sneak anything by you. People enjoy your fresh approach to life. And it's this honesty that makes you a very innovative person.

What Color Purple Are You?


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