Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Hello again

Sorry for the break in transmission but I really was busy having a good time, catching up with old friends and trying to be a bit more active. Yesterday I ventured into town and hobbled around the streets quite well. I visited a few favourite shops that I hadn't been in for a year... since I fell ill. It felt so good to be doing normal, everyday things like browsing through CDs or having a good nose round my favourite kitchen shop. All the things I used to take for granted seem so exciting, as if I were experiencing them all over again for the first time. I'm sure the novelty will wear off but I'm going to enjoy it for now.

As for the New Year... I'm going to be careful with this one. Last New Year's Day I remarked to Mrs XTM that the year had been a bad one and that 2009 couldn't possibly be any worse because of that fact. We toasted in 2009 with Champagne as we watched the New Year's Day concert from Vienna, oblivious of the events that were about to engulf our family barely six weeks later. It seems a lifetime ago... well, it's actually twelve months, eleven general anaesthetics and ten weeks in traction ago. That's probably why it seems like such a long time. I won't tempt fate this year by saying good riddance to 2009; after all, it's taught me many valuable things: the power of family, the good fortune in having so many kind friends and the danger of taking things for granted. And for that, I'm truly grateful.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Back soon

Sorry for the dearth of posts... I've been enjoying Christmas. Back later today. XTM

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas feast

I wonder what they’re having in the hospital

Merry Christmas

A big thank you to all of you who've followed and read my blog this year. A merry Christmas to you all. Your support, kindness and unstinting encouragement has been so precious to me. I couldn't have made it through ten weeks of traction without you. I'm a long way from being back on my feet and it will be a difficult year as I try to walk again, but I feel the worst has passed and for getting this far I have so many of you to thank. Here's hoping your Christmas is a peaceful and truly happy one. May 2010 be kind to you.


Thursday, 24 December 2009

For the love of sprouts

Of all the foods that I detest most, the Brussels sprout has to be up there at the top of the list, along with beetroot and fresh coriander. I don’t care how people dress it up. You can sauté it with hand-reared, milk-fed pancetta or stuff it with the finest Iranian caviar for all I care but it’s still a disgusting vegetable.  And I’m not the only person who thinks so. I only know one person who enjoys eating these wind-inducing, foul smelling, soggy little brassicas… and that’s my father! And why do we hate sprouts? Well, it’s all down to a chemical with a sulphorous stench called glucosinolate sinigrin, which is released when sprouts are overcooked.

However, despite being universally despised, two British women are trying to rehabilitate the humble sprout with a cookbook devoted solely to Brussels’ finest. Deborah Kershaw and Rachel Peck’s book is devoted to the vegetable and features recipes for bubble and squeak and sprouts masala to a cake with sultanas and coconut. And get this… the book includes a recipe for sprout ice cream. Yes…sprout ice cream. Frankly I can’t imagine anything worse except for, perhaps, hamster fricassee.

The authors of the book met each other when their daughters were being treated for cancer at a hospital in Sheffield. Unfortunately, Deborah’s daughter Laruen, who loved sprouts, didn’t make it through her treatment so proceeds from the book will be donated to the hospital. Deborah and Rachel’s recipe book, Once A Sprout, Always A Sprout . . . Or Maybe Not? is available online for £5 from

Anyway, I thought I’d ask you, dear readers, if you consider sprouts to be a good thing and if anyone out there with the energy and wherewithal might be willing to make some sprout ice cream and then report back to let us know if it’s a flavour to rival vanilla. If you’re interested in giving it a whirl then here’s the recipe...

 175g sprouts
 600ml single cream
 2 large eggs
 100g caster sugar
 1/2tsp vanilla extract
Blend the sprouts and 100ml of cream until smooth. Heat 300ml cream, two egg yolks and the sugar to a custard-like texture, then leave to cool. Once the mixture is cold, stir in the sprout mixture, vanilla extract and the remaining cream, then place in an ice cream maker. Begin the freezing process, then whisk the egg whites until fluffy and add to the mixture.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Spirit of Christmas - Part Two

At the risk of being accused of even more Christmas humbuggery, I bring you: The Spirit of Christmas – Part Two.

Stranded motorists, who were forced to abandon their cars in a pub car park when a blizzard whipped up a white out in Hampshire this week, were dismayed to discover their cars had been clamped. That’s right! Only in England at Christmas time could the spirit of yuletide be so cruelly crushed.

For those readers in other countries who still fondly imagine this land as Merry Old England where everyone is tolerant, fair and the snow brings forth little children with upturned apple cheeks and a community spirit that harks back to the Blitz can think again.

The immobilised motorists were stranded when some of the worst snow conditions for many years swept across the UK this week. Particularly badly hit was the county of Hampshire. Roads came to a standstill and with no possibility of reaching home; motorists abandoned their cars and made their way home on foot. Some poor unfortunate souls carefully parked their vehicles off the road in the car park of the Roebuck Inn, in Winchester rather than block the road even further.

Unfortunately, when the drivers returned next day to collect their vehicles, a private security firm had beat them to it and clamped all the cars that had been parked up for the night and was demanding up to £157.50 to release each car.

A delightfully festive spokesman for the clamping company claimed motorists should have parked their cars by the side of the road instead… presumably where other sliding vehicles could crash into them. The soulless drone added: “They weren’t forced to leave their cars in the car park of the Roebuck Inn. The last place you would want to leave a car would be where there are legally placed clamping signs.”

A statement on the company’s website read: “People who use private car parks without authorisation are not only extremely inconsiderate but sticking a proverbial two fingers up at the landowner. We provide a service that gives people their car parks back.”

That last comment is utterly priceless. It’s a bit like kidnappers claiming they offer a service that gives people their loved ones back.

Once again, Britain leads the way in spiteful petty minded nastiness. Whatever happened to the British sense of fair play and tolerance?

Sorry, forget I asked that!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Stealing yourself for a better Christmas

The Church of England used to be a religious order that preached the Ten Commandments and obedience of the law. However, in this mad and topsy-turvy world it was only a matter of time before the church flung off its cloak of respectability and got down with the masses to make itself more appealing. Not content with introducing guitars and tambourines into services, along with speaking in tongues and politically correct prayers, the church is now throwing away the Ten Commandments by encouraging people to steal.

All that nonsense about theft really is out of date in this modern and more liberal world. Don’t believe me? It’s true. Rev Tim Jones from North Yorkshire has advised his more hard-up parishioners to pop out for a bit of five-fingered discount should they find themselves a bit short this Christmas. No… really! Father Tim thinks it’s okay for his parishioners to shoplift as an alternative to mugging, prostitution and burglary. Presumably he hasn’t got round to endorsing those three felonies yet.

Father Tim tempered his comments by saying: “I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices. I would ask them not to take any more than they need, for any longer than they need.” Jolly nice of Tim, don’t you think?

Actually, the good father is no stranger to controversy and is rather adept at manipulating the news agenda so he can have Telegraph and Mail readers foaming at the mouth. Last year Father Tim took direct action against Playboy stationery products aimed at children. When he spotted the stationery carrying Playboy's bunny logo on the shelves at his local Stationery Box store, next to Winnie-the-Pooh and Mickey Mouse products, he took it upon himself to clear the shelves. I suppose that’s the modern equivalent of turning over the moneychangers’ tables at the temple.

However, those killjoys at the North Yorkshire police have gone and misinterpreted Tim’s advice on shoplifting by taking a pretty dim view of the whole affair. Still, it’s nice to see the police actually upholding the law for a change… who says miracles don’t happen at Christmas?

Monday, 21 December 2009

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Elf and Safety

I was going to treat you to another of my diatribes on the subject of the ruination of Christmas by the Elf ’n’ Safety brigade who are rapidly turning our world into a joyless place but someone has beaten me to it. So rather than reinvent the wheel I commend the following article to you...

How health and safety is killing Christmas

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Setting a bad example

Good grief! Is nothing off limits to the miserable and humourless PC brigade? Last week we had the story from a Canadian academic accusing Thomas the Tank Engine of being a Nazi, and this week it’s the turn of the antipodeans to have a pop at Santa Claus for setting a bad example.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for publicity and self-promotion if you’re a starving academic in an educational institution. The pressure to publish papers and bring in research grants must be intense. However, I think the assertion by Dr Nathan Grills of Monash University in Australia that Santa Claus is a bad role model really takes the Christmas cookie.

Dr Grills claims that Santa’s unhealthy body mass index as well as his propensity for scoffing mince pies and sherry while being in charge of a sleigh and six reindeer doesn’t promote a healthy lifestyle. At the moment, Santa Claus is used by Coca Cola to promote its fizzy sugar water and he’s more recognisable to young children than Beelzebub himself… Ronald McDonald. That is unforgivable in Dr Grills’ view and as Santa is exported to more of the developing world, the fat old man is in danger of setting a very bad example to children of those ‘emerging nations’.

The good doctor thinks Santa Claus is such a universal figure he should be pressed into service on behalf of the propaganda war to promote healthy lifestyles. It seems that Father Christmas will be asked to shed quite a few pounds, switch to muesli and low-fat yogurt for his breakfast and swear off the sauce by turning teetotal.

Santa’s driving also comes in for a slating as Dr Grills thinks that the wicked old man’s traditional habit of necking a couple of thousand sherries while being in charge of six caribou on Christmas Eve is totally unacceptable in this zero tolerance, risk-averse world of political correctness.

And as if all that weren’t enough, Santa also gets it in the neck from Dr Grills for being a germ-laden carrier of all sorts of biological nasties. If Santa has even ten small children sat on his lap in the course of a day and sneezes over them, then he could be responsible for a swine flu pandemic. And he can do all this without having been given the all clear by the Criminal Records Bureau. So, until Santa’s jumped through that little hoop we may as well fling the accusation of being a paedophile at him too. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if he beats up Mrs Claus after a few sherries.

And on that happy and cheerful note I wish you a Merry Christmas. Ho, ho, ho!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The spirit of Christmas

A lot of sentimental sloppy nonsense gets written or reported around this time of year, but sometimes you read something that really does make you wonder if the spirit of Christmas hasn’t been totally demolished under the tidal wave of consumerism or petty bureaucracy.

Today’s piece of Christmas humbug comes to us courtesy of Britain’s burgeoning army of humourless public servants who sound more like Nazi concentration camp guards by the day. “I was only following orders,” they protest as yet another cock-up comes to light.

The latest of these Scrooge moments comes to us via Ryecroft Primary School, in Bradford. Brother and sister Sean and Claire Watson were barred from an end-of-term disco held to reward children with a 100% school attendance record for the Winter term. Those who had been ill or absent for any reason were not invited.

I imagine a disco with just two or three kids wouldn’t have been much fun but that’s not the point. The purpose for holding the disco was to humiliate, exclude and cajole others to improving their school attendance record – a nicely balanced blend of stick and carrot akin to modern day stocks. However, the children in question were just five and seven years old. What’s more, they were barred from the party because they’d had the temerity to take four days off school when their father died of a particularly aggressive form of cancer.

When the children’s mother Samantha phoned the school to confirm that the children had been barred from the party, the robotic twerp of a school secretary assured her that Sean and Claire could not attend because even time off for a bereavement counted as an ‘absence’.

Well, soon the PR shit hit the fan and the school’s headteacher rapidly backtracked and apologised, but not before adding that the way the mother spoke to the school secretary was an aggravating factor and implying that if Samantha had sucked up to the petty little bureaucrat and dripped honey in her ear, she might have deigned to ask the headteacher to bend the rules.

The harridan of a headmistress claimed: 'We have an attendance disco and within that policy we look at the children who have a 100 per cent attendance record. It's not instead of all the normal Christmas parties, it's in addition to that as a reward. We are trying to build a community that attends school and regards school as absolutely vital for the future. It's so strict that, for example, families who have a lot of lates are not invited to the disco because we are committed to getting children here. I would feel so sad to take away this reward for excellence because some people are sad that they are not invited.'

The headmistress also cooed that the school always supported families that suffered bereavements and she was sympathetic to the Watsons' situation – but obviously not that sympathetic!

She added: 'We have gone from the bottom six up 39 places in the league tables of achievement in Bradford. We beat the national standard for writing and for science.'

So that’s all right, then!

Monday, 14 December 2009

The tree is up

I can't take any credit but for those who love the Christmas spirit here's a snap of the Christmas tree that Mrs XTM has hauled in from the forest and decorated with baubles and fairy lights. Not sure who that old bear with the glasses is supposed to be...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

More bankers

Cat therapy

Whisky's working really hard to heal that bone. He does this a lot but it's still taking time. Unfortunately the bone is diverting calcium from the rest of me so my teeth are suffering and I think I just cracked a weakened rib. Time to get the calcium tablets and multivitamins out.

Friday, 11 December 2009

It’s war in the supermarket aisles

I have no particular view on the whole sorry mess of Middle East politics but I may just have been given a gentle nudge in Israel’s direction thanks to a bunch of handwringing types who want to politicise every aspect of our lives, including the weekly shop.

I’m talking about the decision by some concerned people that labelling food as coming from either Israel or Palestine is simply not good enough if you want to pop down the Co-op for a bit of right-on and discriminatory shopping. Until recently I can imagine these Birkenstock-wearing types were stuffing their faces with anything marked Produce of Palestine in a well-intentioned effort to support the cause of Palestinian self-determination and there’s nothing wrong with that, of course.

Unfortunately, someone has pointed out that Palestine also includes some Zionists who’ve settled illegally in the West Bank. Now imagine how the pious Grauniad readers must feel when they realise those stuffed olives they’ve been scoffing like they were going out of fashion have been picked and packed by Israeli settlers. It must be a bit like being a vegetarian and then finding out you’ve been eating curried poodle when you thought you were having tofu korma. It’s enough to make you choke, I would imagine.

So now the UK Government has suggested that food imported from Palestinian territories should be labelled either Palestinian Produce or Israeli Settlement Produce depending on their origin. This will help the people who feel the need to boycott one side in a dispute that’s happening a couple of thousand miles away. It may also encourage people of the opposite view to discriminate the other way. Still, I suppose anything that extends choice can’t be bad.

Perhaps it would be easier if the produce were even more easily distinguished. How about a lovely cuddly heart logo on one and black skull and crossbones on the other? That would help the socially progressive shopper to get things straight when they’re girding their loins for a spot of boycotting.

The UK Department for the Environment, Regions and Agriculture has said that traders would be committing an offence if they did declare produce from the occupied territories as "Produce of Israel". No doubt we can soon expect to see a clipboard-wielding civil servants from Whitehall marching into the West Bank with a summons for any settlers mislabelling their goods.

I only hope they’ll have flak jackets and an armed guard.

Glaswegian advent calendar

Don't blame me for this... blame Andy Bascombe for sending it to me. Thanks Andy! Nice one.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Thomas is a Tory

I have huge respect for Canadians. Any country that can maintain its character and independence when sat on the doorstep of the world’s only superpower deserves to be viewed with a certain amount of awe. However, my esteem for the Canuks has been dented somewhat by the mad mutterings of Shauna Wilton, a professor of political sciences at the University of Alberta.

Ms Wilton claims that Thomas the Tank Engine, a popular series of books and TV programmes about steam trains with cheeky little human faces, is in fact a fascist Trojan horse. Apparently the show’s politics are distinctly right wing. The poor little engines are punished and squashed if they show any initiative and individualism. She also paints the Fat Controller who bosses Thomas and his chums about as being some sort of bullying aristocrat. He’s probably a freemason and a foxhunter, I shouldn’t wonder. Thomas meanwhile is a lacky and running dog of international capitalism.

As if those crimes weren’t enough, it seems that the story suffers from a lack of female role models. The professor watched the TV show with her three-year old daughter and was concerned enough to launch a full-scale witch hunt… er… academic paper which she then presented at a conference on political science in Canada.

"The female characters weren't necessarily portrayed any more negatively than the male characters or the male trains, but they did tend to play more secondary roles and they're often portrayed as being bossy or know-it-alls," she said. Any attempt to break out of this controlled hierarchy to gain individual power, show initiative or dissent is met with punishment, usually because it goes wrong.”

Thankfully it’s not all bad news as Professor Wilton concedes that Thomas has some acceptable values including contributing to the community, tolerance of others and good communication. However she does go on to say that children who watch the programme will attain full political citizenship, and the opinions and world outlook they develop now will be partially influenced by shows like Thomas.

Thank goodness the professor has an open and balanced view of politics. If she weren’t such a paragon of fairness and tolerance one might imagine her students would be influenced by her anti-conservative agenda, although I’m sure she’s far too impartial to allow that to happen.

So who’d have thought it? Thomas the Tank Engine… the Fuhrer of the railways. It’s amazing how clever those right-wing zealots are at hiding subliminal political messages in the most seemingly innocent guises.

On the other hand it could just be a fun and enjoyable story about steam trains for children who know nothing of politics.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

More hospital

No post today as I decided to take the day off to visit the gastroenterologist to see if we can't track down the hideous streptococcus that started all this nonsense off last February.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Another day, another Quango

Apparently our children are not safe on the internet thanks to armies of paedophiles, cyber bullies, pornographers and identity thieves. It’s a jungle out there in cyberspace and that can mean only one thing. Yet another fake charity or quango is needed to regulate things and make life even more difficult for the rest of us.

This week’s newest Quango (Quasi Autonomous Non Governmental Organisation) is the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. According to government spin doctors, it is “a coalition of government, industry and charities that should be the conscience of the industry”. God spare us from government-funded consciences.

I’m sure the internet is rammed full of inappropriate sites and sights but so is life. If you don’t want your kids to see bad things then take responsibility and either use the internet with them or severely restrict their access to the web. If you were to take the government’s conclusion on internet safety to something else that’s dangerous – like cars, for instance – we’d all be forced to hide our car keys in case a child got hold of them and nipped off for a joyride. It’s insane.

Why do we have so many of these committees interfering and busybodying their way through our lives? Quite simple… can you say ‘consultancy’. All those reports to be written on child internet safety won’t write themselves you know. Oh no. Someone will have to be paid to do it. Then there are the travel expenses, the away-days for team building, the secretariat to support the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, the plush offices, the ever-increasing staff with their gold-plated pensions. It just goes on and on.

The UK is now full of pseudo charities that appear to exist just for the benefit of their large staff and armies of fundraisers. Very few of these charities actually do much, preferring instead to be political pressure groups and lobbyists. It’s often a nice little job to cut your teeth on while you wait for a safe seat in Parliament.

Fake charities (find out more at represent a disturbing aspect of modern life. Increasingly, politicans take more notice of these publicly funded do-gooders than they do of their voters. And each organisation enjoys some spectacular tax breaks, top salaries and a light workload. Nice work if you can get it.

Got a problem? There’s a Quango for that!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Kicking up a stink about pink

The UK is currently embroiled in war, financial depression, soaring crime rates and a general air of corruption in public life. In fact there’s plenty for the politicians to get their teeth into, and that’s before things like failing schools and filthy hospitals have been tackled.

So what would you say might be the most pressing situation for an MP to get involved with? War? Famine? Pestillence? No… pink toys! Yes… that’s right… pink toys. Some humourless gorgon masquerading as an MP has declared war on pink toys for girls.

Bridget Prentice MP, a minister at the Department for Justice, has lent her support to a campaign being run by twin mothers who live in Ms Prentice’s Lewisham constituency. Sisters Emma and Abi Moore have set up a website called Pinkstinks. It’s a campaign and ‘social enterprise’ that challenges the ‘culture of pink’, which invades every area of girls’ lives.

Apparently Pinkstinks will focus on providing real role models who will inspire and motivate girls to achieve great things based on ability and effort and not how they look. Laudable in some ways but totally missing the point by blaming it on pink toys of all things. Pinkstinks is organising a boycott of shops including the Early Learning Centre, which the group claims is leading the “pinkification” of girls' toys which end up crushing female ambitions later in life.

Incidentally, can anyone tell me what a social enterprise is? Could it be a website with not much to sell that exists to grab some headlines, make some cash without the need to sully one’s hands with a business or anything horribly commercial like that?

Ms Prentice threw fuel on the pink bonfire with a few of her own inflammatory remarks: “It’s about not funnelling girls into pretty, pretty jobs, but giving them aspirations and challenging them to fulfil their potential. We want to say to organisations like the Early Learning Centre that we rely on them to be progressive about encouraging girls to think of themselves as equal, and not to reinforce the old stereotypes.”

We live in the age of pressure groups where a couple of people with a computer, a grievance, a spare bedroom and too much time on their hands can set themselves up as if they’re representing a large slice of public opinion. Before you know it they’ll be asking for a grant to spread their lunacy further. I can see it now: pink outreach workers and drop-in centres operating a pink toy amnesty. Before you know it, girls with pink toys will be placed on the local authority's ‘At Risk’ register and the little poppets will be encouraged to denounce and report anyone who buys them a pink toy.

Frankly, it sounds like a damn good idea to me. I’m going to turn this blog into a social enterprise and book my ticket on the pressure group gravy train. With any luck I need never work again.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

It’s curtains for Brown

Sorry for the light blogging but I seem to be spending rather a lot of my time walking around in circles as I practice my gait and try to acclimatise to life with a one leg permanently shorter than the other. In the grand scheme of things it’s not a big deal and just makes walking barefoot a bit of a pain.

However, it is nothing compared to the suffering that British soldiers have experienced in Afghanistan recently. I simply can’t comprehend how the young men who return here with limbs blown off and serious bomb blast injuries manage to keep so cheerful and recover so well. Of course they’re pissed off with what’s happened but they just get on with things. That doesn’t mean to say they’ve forgotten what happened and why.

To show how they felt, a number of injured soldiers being treated at Selley Oak Hospital, near Birmingham, took the sensible decision to close the curtains around their beds when the prime minister Gordon Brown popped in for a brief pre-Christmas photo opportunity... er... I mean goodwill visit.

The soldiers described the Labour leader’s visit as ‘opportunistic’ and ‘a waste of time’. The men were forewarned that the clunking fist was on his way and were given the opportunity of declining a personal bedside photo.

Sapper Matthew Weston, 20, who lost both legs and his right arm when a bomb exploded on a dirt track outside Sangin, said: “I didn’t want to speak to him, I didn’t want to waste my time talking to someone who was just trying to make themselves look good. I spent the day with my family instead. Half the lads didn’t want to speak to him and those that did pretty much blamed him for everything. Many of the lads just closed their curtains and hid themselves away. I met Prince Charles and Sir Richard Dannatt [when they visited Selly Oak]. I have respect for them. Prince Charles spoke to me for two hours. I really didn’t want to speak to Gordon Brown.”

I think if I’d been so badly injured and was about to receive a visit from a man hellbent on cutting my compensation, I’d have closed more than my curtains. Another soldier, who’d lost his right leg after being caught in a mine blast in Afghanistan, said that more than two-thirds of the 25 soldiers on the ward closed their curtains. He, however, decided to speak to Brown.

“I wanted to find out how the guy’s head worked,” he said. “I was interested in what he had made of his trip to Afghanistan and what he had learnt from it. I feel that even if someone is a moron, he should have the opportunity to defend his moronity. [His response] all seemed rather textbook and not from the heart. The straight fact is this: we don’t like the man, he has done nothing for us and continues to kick us in the teeth over equipment and compensation.”

There’s not much you can add to that, is there?

Friday, 4 December 2009

A bunch of yankers!

The senior plaster technician made an odd remark yesterday while I was having my Meggitt Brace replaced at the hospital. She told her colleague that I was 'a bit of a yanker' and that was why my brace was all skew-whiff. I thought for a moment that the term 'yanker' was cockney rhyming slang for the incredibly abusive term 'banker', which as we all know is about the worst thing you can call anyone these days. It turns out she merely meant I yanked up my adjustable brace a little too enthusiastically and that's why it needed replacing.

If 'yanker' had really meant 'banker' I would have been terribly upset. These creatures from the square mile of the City of London have done much to earn the opprobrium of just about everyone in the country. Not only have they hovered up around £850 billion of taxpayers' borrowed money to keep their clapped-out and overcharging businesses in the black (remember how much mercy they show most debtors?) they're also now insisting that they be allowed to dish out some tasty bonuses using our money. The cheek of it! I'm not normally someone who adopts the herd mentality and neither am I anti-business, but this really is the limit. These pompous and spoilt cads really haven't learned anything, have they? Bonuses indeed!

I was trying to think if I'd ever received a bonus in my working life. Hang on a minute while I consult my memory. No! Never! Zippo! Zilch! Nada! Never have I received anything other than my salary or payment of an invoice for simply doing what I was asked to do to the best of my ability. I believe the same is true in most jobs. Nurses, for example. Do they get big bonuses for really making an effort to do their job and take care of their patients? No, I didn't think so. If bankers need an incentive to get out of bed in the morning then how about the rest of us? It's preposterous when you think about it.

Actually, I must confess that this Christmas I will receive my first bonus ever. Now that I'm in receipt of a small Disability Living Allowance until I get back on my feet, I'm going to be awarded a £10 Christmas bonus in order to bring some small cheer to the festive season. Believe it or not, I'm actually very grateful for the gesture. It won't make a huge difference but it's nice to be recognised at last.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Off to hospital

Today's my monthly check at hospital. This is the first one since I came home. It's a two-hour drive this morning to the hospital so no blogging until I get back.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The lunatics are in charge

No wonder NHS psychiatric services are stretched to the limit. All this stress brought about by the credit crunch, global warming and endless surveys telling us how dangerous everything is has driven swathes of people into the arms of their local psychiatrist.

Of course, it would help ease pressure on mental health services if there weren't so many lunatics already knocking around the system. Fortunately, some of them have been released into a special 'Care in the Community' project housed in a large gothic building in Westminster, right on the edge of the Thames. The inmates of this facility have a nice big clock tower so they know when their appointment with the doctor is due. They also get endless pocket money and a series of subsidised bars and restaurants to cater to their every whim.

Unfortunately, some of these nutbars have been listening to 'experts' when it comes to matters of climate change. I should declare at this point that I am a global warming 'denier' - a term of abuse is applied to anyone with a heightened ability for sniffing out bullshit and humbug. Chief amongst those having a go at the 'deniers' while feeding the residents of the Westminster care project with heaps of nonsense is one Lord Stern. This former career civil servant and economist is now an expert and is telling the loonies that anyone not swallowing the whole global warming story is 'muddled'!

To be fair, Lord Stern condescendingly agrees that sceptics deserve to be heard (there, there... pat on head) but that their views should not be seen as 'searing insight'. On the other hand, lying and cheating academics keen to create a new religion out of climate change by manipulating data and covering up facts, apparently do have searing insight.

The shrill clamour for us to do something about global warming grows ever louder while I sit here writing this, shivering under a blanket with the heating turned up. In the meantime, the noble old goat is urging higher taxes on everything that helps fight the good fight. He even wants us to borrow lots of money and then give it to poorer countries so they can join in his fantasy too. No doubt his Lordship will be well insulated from the financial effects of his climate change medicine with the help of his index-linked, gold-plated, final salary pension.

Perhaps it's time we tried reducing our carbon footprint and improving our mental health statistics at the same time by burning politicians and their advisors instead of using fossil fuels. It may not make much difference but we all have to make sacrifices, don't we?

Throw another MP on the fire, will you?

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

They're taking the piss!

Forgive me but I've just about had enough. Long-term followers will already know that I suffer from a terrible affliction that I've battled with on a daily basis for some time now, but I simply can't go on like this any more. My nanny allergy has blown up with the Government's latest intrusion into my private life. The Nanny State has finally managed to out-nanny itself by releasing an iPhone application to keep track of alcohol units.

That's right! Over the Christmas festivities, Nu Labour is urging owners of flash mobile phones to download a free 'app' that enables drinkers to tap in the number of alcoholic units they're consuming as they tip them down the hatch. Brilliant!

Government public health minister Gillian Merron said: “It is all too easy to lose track of how much you drink. So as the festive parties start to build up, this innovative tool will help people keep tabs on their drinking – wherever they are. It’s one of many ways the Government is helping people to understand how much they are drinking. Sticking within the NHS recommended limits means you reduce the risk of serious conditions such as mouth cancer and strokes.”

God they're good to us. They steal huge amounts of our money, squander it on illegal wars, failing schools and hospitals and then spend the loose change left over on developing a computer program so we can start spying on ourselves. And who knows... there may even be a little routine in the program that relays your drinking record back to NHS computer servers in real time so it can keep a tally there too. Should you stray over the conservative and totally arbitrary Government guideline, klaxons and sirens will go off at NHS Central where an Alcohol Rehabilitation and Support Education officer (ARSE) will be scrambled to your boozer to hand out sensible drinking advice leaflets and Alka Seltzers.

I never imagined that Nu Labour would go so far as to try to take the spirit out of Christmas, but with this miserable little 'app' I think it's come close. I wonder if any of the geniuses that came up with this topping idea ever wondered how drunks are going to be able to accurately input their alcoholic units when they're totally wasted. I can't use my iPhone with any great accuracy when I'm sober so I dare not get drunk as I wouldn't be able to use it at all.

Oh well... with all my pain killers I doubt I'll be in need of Gordon Brown's iPiss application as I'm three sheets to the wind on Oramorph most of the time anyway.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

It's time for change

It seems as though the wheels are finally coming off the government’s NHS propaganda machine. The years of nonsensical statistics, Stalinist five-year plans, ministerial edicts or any of the other untreated bullshit that’s been foisted upon the staff of the NHS is coming to light.

The news that Bolton, Greater Manchester and Basildon NHS trusts – the elite NHS Foundation Trusts – had death rates far higher than the national average is bound to start people asking questions about the management of our hospitals.

Finding out what hospitals are really like is pretty tricky. If you ask patients while they're in hospital,  then most will feel so grateful, needy or intimidated they dare not speak out of turn in case they’re refused treatment or simply ignored when they ring for a bedpan. When you’re on the ward you simply don’t rock the boat because you’re so vulnerable. Once most people leave hospital, the nightmare of ward life, filthy toilets and facilities that make Kabul General Hospital look well appointed, begin to fade and complaining is no longer an urgent priority. And as for those who don’t make it through the NHS machine’s 'caring' hands… well, they’re hardly in a position to comment, are they?

So what’s going to happen next? Will someone actually have the nerve to stand up and say parts of the NHS are simply not ‘fit for purpose’? The NHS is like an over-loved teddy. It needs a lot of repair work rather than simply being sprayed with perfume and given a new suit of clothes. It has to take on board patients’ criticisms rather than the pathetic reams of toilet paper produced by overpaid management consultants. The windows need to be opened and the stale air replaced by the invigorating breeze of an open mind that can look at fixing the NHS rather than hosing it down with money that just drains away and empties into the nearest trough for managers and bureaucrats to soak up.

I remember feeling so afraid when I started my blog that criticised the food that was actually hindering my recovery and in danger of making me really ill after ten weeks of nothing else. I was so worried people might spit in my food (or worse) that I knew I had to be anonymous. For all I know, someone may have spat and urinated in my food, but as I hardly ate any of it I’m not all that bothered.

The day after my blog was splashed all over the UK and global media, I felt physically sick for a day or two. I turned down interviews with GMTV, BBC and just about every other media outlet except a couple of radio stations in Perth and Darwin. I was so afraid of being bundled out of my bed for stepping out of line. Actually, I couldn’t step anywhere but you get my drift.

A day or two later the head of finance at the trust where I was being treated visited me because she’d apparently never seen anyone in traction before and was interested. Really? It was so surreal as I lay there explaining how my traction worked as she simply stared at me trying to figure out if I was a lunatic, security risk or just plain trouble. I’d clearly been rumbled at that point.

Perhaps it’s time more patients were given the confidence and encouragement to 'step out of line' and criticise some of the unacceptable practices that are causing people to die needlessly. The NHS can be great but it can also be very bad. It’s time the NHS was stripped of its ‘sacred cow’ status and was forced to face reality and put the patient first. If that happens, then the needless deaths that occur every year in our hospitals won’t have been in vain.

Real hospital food

Christine sent me this snap from a recent meal she was given when in hospital and says: "I was in hospital briefly on thursday for an endoscopy / colonoscopy (aka 'the spitroast') and was treated to jacket potato with salad, melon plate, and ice cream - it was excellent and even the tomatoes had flavour!"

I need more photos like this. In this instance I have a feeling the letters BMI... may have been involved.


Eldest daughter stayed and treated me to her signature dish Eggs Benedict. Nom, nom, nom... as young people say these days

Saturday, 28 November 2009

A bit of a fiasco

The sun may be shining now, but at 8.30 this morning it was dark grey skies and showers of ice-like rain... definitely a gloves, thick socks, coat, scarf and blanket day. And so I set forth looking like a Yeti and made the short journey into town.

I had my coffee but not before almost crashing on to my backside as the wet surface of the rubber pad on the end of one of my crutches slipped and I took my full weight on my bad led and felt a muscle pull or sprain. It was one of those heavy landings where your knee flexes in exactly the opposite direction it's supposed too. The pain was excruciating.

So, back into the wheelchair and off to the bank to sort out a long overdue matter and then I picked up some spectacles that were ready for me. It was then I noticed that one of the wheelchair tyres had gone flat. Frankly that was about all I could take. We headed back for the car in the stinging rain while all around me people walked casually by without even thinking about putting one foot in front of the other. From my lower vantage point even children looked tall, and though it may sound strange, everything felt so intimidating.

I have to say it was one of the lowest points of the past year. I simply couldn't cope with the bustling Christmas crowds and was just happy to be heading back home to put up my aching limb and take a shot of Oramorph for the pain in my back and leg. As I shuffled into the car I couldn't be sure if it was raindrop that rolled off the end of my nose or bit of self pity.

I think I'll give town a miss next week.

Friday, 27 November 2009

It's Friday... fish again

This is yet another piece of Marks & Spencer magic. Salmon en croute with green beans. Very tasty and really quick to prepare. Nice glass of white... I know I shouldn't but a sip won't hurt, will it?

An interesting view

Tomorrow will be one of my first outings since I returned home (physios or doctors don't count) and it's going to be really chilly. This means two things… wheelchair and a blanket. If you've never been in a wheelchair before then I can only say that it's an experience. Your entire view of the world changes.

Firstly, there's the novelty of travelling around at waist height. You end up viewing the world from the level of a ten-year old. This causes you to constantly look up to the people you meet in the street - a very strange feeling. But perhaps the worst part of being in a wheelchair are the looks one gets. Let's forget the odd picture of my fairly small wife pushing round a 5' 11'' male, but people do look at you in a variety of ways. Some stare, small children tend to tap each others arms and point. I guess most immobile people use scooters so you don't see so many wheelchairs around but you soon learn that this is not a wheelchair friendly world.

Despite all the excellent adaptations and the laws that try to make it easier for disabled people to get about, going around town and doing some shopping in a non-electric wheelchair is like a commando assault course for the driver and slightly akin to the Cannonball Run for the passenger. I've lost count of the number of times I've closed my eyes as my protruding leg has nearly smashed into a pillar or clipped the edge of a door. It's dangerous. Eating can be difficult too, as the average wheelchair seems to have a special magnetic capability when it comes to crumbs of food. After a day in town, the seat of a wheelchair can look resemble the baskets of food following the clear up operation of 'the feeding of the 5,000'. It's worse than the cat's food mat.

My second observation is that you soon get cold being wheeled round and that tends to make you more pathetic and waif-like than you really are. This elicits sympathy from elderly ladies and young mothers, which is no bad thing and can be quite comforting. It also makes you appreciate nice warm shops and cafes.

But perhaps the best view from a wheelchair is the number of kindly and thoughtful people you can see that there are in this world. I've had my share of ignorance, rudeness and pigheadedness from people who've let a door close on me when wheeling myself around. I've also been made to wait out in the pouring rain while trying to get into a shop where the doorway is choc-full of immobile women desperate not to get their hair wet and seemingly happy for me and my blanket to get absolutely drenched by a cloudburst. However, overwhelmingly there are so many Good Samaritans in the world who will offer help and support to a total stranger. A short spell in a wheelchair can restore your faith in humanity.

Well, tomorrow I shall have my little outing and enjoy a fresh coffee with friends in the same cafe I've been visiting for 30 years. Then I'll have a quick spin around the German-style Christmas market our town holds each year. It won't be a long outing, but long enough to top up my spirits and give me a glimpse of the normality that I can't wait to reclaim.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

I love Italians

There's a great piece in today's Telegraph reports on the plea by Italian government minister, Gianfranco Rotondi, who has called on Italians to eschew their traditional two-hour lunch break for the sake of the economy.

Long lunches brings the economy to a standstill and Mr Rotondi says it's time Italians looked to their waistlines and followed the example of those fun-loving Germans who apparently don't take lunch breaks... ever! Even we Brits get a pat on the back from Gianfranco who claims we only take breaks three days out of five.

The suggestion was laughed out of court by the whole nation and some nutritionists claimed that Italians typically have a very light breakfast – usually a cappuccino and a cornetto pastry. Without a hearty midday meal, Italians would faint for lack of sustenance. Pietro Migliaccio, a nutritionist went so far as to claim the country would have a "a blood sugar crisis in the afternoon, which would make it quite difficult to work".

Carlo Podda, of the Italian General Confederation of Labour, said: "What next? Should we abolish the boring ritual of sleep?"

Don't you just love the Italians?

You can read the full story here

Nice and simple

Delicious and easy

Walking the walk

Today's the day I return to physio at my local hospital. I'm looking forward to it but there are a few things I can't quite understand about this walking business. Learning to walk is not difficult when you're a baby but relearning to walk when you're trapped in the body of a grown up is no picnic.

There are lots of times when I'm sitting down or lying on the settee with my feet elevated, when I think to myself: "I'll just get up and change that CD/grab an apple/pop to the loo". Then I realise I can't. Obviously I haven't lost the instinct to walk but when I eventually get to my feet with a crutch on each arm, I find I can't cast one crutch aside and try to walk forward. I certainly can't do it without any support. For some reason my left leg just won't allow it to have my full weight forced on it. However much I try I simply can't do it. The thought of falling over and breaking my leg again is too awful to contemplate.

So, I'm assuming much of my inability to walk is a psychological block. My heart says it's okay to walk but my brain steps in and overrules it at the last minute. How do you get around that sort of a barrier? I do my exercises and I'm probably one of the world's most determined, stubborn and difficult individuals but this one's got me beaten for now.

Has anyone else reading this blog experienced the same? Any tips for getting back on my feet?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dine in for a tenner

Mrs XTM is working all week, sometimes later than usual, so tonight's supper is a cheat... but a tasty one nevertheless. Roast rosemary potatoes, tender-stem broccoli and chicken breast stuffed with feta cheese and butternut squash, encased in a puff pastry lattice and accompanied by a sweet chilli sauce. Now, before you start clamouring for a recipe I must explain that this is a ready meal from Marks & Spencer.

For those living abroad, I should explain that Marks & Spencer is a British institution. It's a large chain of stores that sell clothes, food, furniture and a few other bits and pieces. The quality is pretty good and the prices are fair. There can hardly be a Brit who hasn't worn Marks & Spencer underwear at some point in their life.

The reason why I like Marks & Spencer is that they regularly offer two main course meals, two vegetable side orders, two desserts and a bottle of wine for just £10. That's less than $17 or A$18 or around €11. I think that's great. Name me any restaurant where two people could dine out for that sort of money. It's a great treat in this credit crunch. It's really good to see a large business offering an affordable treat when times are hard. Let's hope people remember when the good times return.

Dessert was a delicious Lemon and Limoncello Pana Cotta

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Just testing

It's been a feet and physio day and I'm really pleased my oedema has gone and I'm working on stregnthening my muscles so that sort of thing doesn't happen again.

It's only just over a week until I find out if my cast and brace can come off. I really hope so but I'm not betting on it.

No supper report tonight as it was the same as last night. The fatted calf has been finished and so my second week at home means a return to less luxurious rations. Delicious nonetheless.

Okay, that's about it for now. I'll try and entertain tomorrow. Bye.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Soup and excuses

Sorry for the lack of posts but much of the day has been spent with my leg in the air. No, I've not taken up ballet, but for some reason my leg has decided to swell again. The calf muscles need to be strong to act as the 'second heart' and return fluids back up the body. Mine are still a bit spindly and wimpish so I was elevated today. The pain and swelling have reduced and I'm now enjoying a warming homemade winter soup in front of the wood burner.

It's easy to forget now I'm home how bad the food was in hospital and I vowed I would try to do something about it when I broke free. I know I haven't written much about it recently but I was giving myself a bit of time off to get used to being home. But I haven't forgotten and I'm currently helping a TV production company to try to find an appropriate platform for the campaign.

I'm also hoping to start more research on the whole subject in terms of best practice and the amount health trusts spend on food per patient. I also need your help. If you could send me photos of good and bad hospital food where you work or are a patient, then perhaps one day we can go as far as having a league table or maybe even hospital food awards as well as wooden spoons!

If you can help with launching a campaign or just have some good ideas then let me know. If you'd like to write on the blog then let me know too. As I build up my strength then so will I step up my efforts to do something about this shameful aspect of the healthcare system.

In the meantime, I'm going to put my feet up, enjoy the fire and maybe play Scrabble with Mrs XTM!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Lazy Sunday roast

This sums up the feeling in the house today. And who could blame him after a lunch like this?

Roast pork with crispy salted crackling

That's the sort of lunch you just have to sleep off

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Just what the doctor ordered

My unofficial doctor popped round for dinner this evening and brought with her a very tasty Lamb Tajine and her husband made some excellent couscous. This was followed by freshly made profiteroles stuffed with whipped cream and drenched in a gorgeous sticky chocolate sauce. The cheese course was optional. Now why can't other doctors make this sort of house call?

I’m planning a crime

Regular readers will know that this week we had a wood-burning stove installed at Traction Towers. We paid a sum of money not far off your average UN aid package to have the thing fitted, but all is now well. I’m broke but the living room is a cosy little den with a cheery glow coming from the once-dark and foreboding chasm where the old fireplace used to be.

As I was looking at the flames gently licking around a log of wood inside the stove, a terrible thought occurred to me. Our house is a Listed Building and is sited in a Conservation Area. What this means is that you own the house but you may make no alterations, may not even dream about making alterations – inside or out – without consulting the local council for Listed Building Consent and Planning Permission.

A chill ran down my spine as I began to wonder if we needed permission for our new stove. I did everything correctly by using a Government approved installer which meant I wouldn’t have to pay out for the local council’s building inspector to call round and give me a certificate for the fire if I’d fitted it myself or asked a mere mortal to install it. You pay many hundreds of pounds extra for this, but I like to play safe for obvious reasons. A neighbour could denounce me or report my heinous crime.

So what should I do? Shall I call the local council and ask them if I need permission or should I risk it? Planning inspectors are a strange breed; a cabal of pettifogging officials drunk on the enormous powers they wield by fiat. Want to put up a garden fence? Need a shed for storage? Hang on a minute! Better call in the planners. Want to change your bed sheets? Hmm… better play safe and give the planning department a call. Anyway, it’s only £250 for the permission to erect your £150 garden shed… well worth the money at twice the price. Actually, it’s probably cheaper to torch the shed if they get shirty.

There was some talk a year or two ago of planning laws being liberalised but that’s all gone very quiet now. I could have guessed these power-crazed megalomaniacs weren’t going to give up their jealously guarded authority until someone actually forces their clipboards from their cold dead hands!

And you want to know why these people are like they are? Well, after Hitler’s Third Reich fell in 1945, there were still plenty of high-ranking Nazis on the loose. Many pretended to be concentration camp victims, others tried to con the Allies into thinking they were Dutch or Polish. However, the vast majority of them, including the Waffen SS, just disappeared.

For many years it was thought that the majority had made it to Argentina, but the truth is, they all lay down their guns, stripped off their uniforms and retrained as town planners. They spread themselves around the world, dropped the German names and accents and then continued with their reign of terror and exercised their unique talent for enforcing the pettiest rules imaginable. Even to this day they still go around knocking on doors without warning, asking to see people’s papers.

I guess old habits die hard. Now where did I put that poker?

Friday, 20 November 2009

It's Friday... that means it's fish

I'd be happy with just the potato and crispy cheese topping

Pollack, salmon and smoked haddock in a béchamel sauce

Not much in the way of leftovers

A growing problem

Manuel Uribe, the world's most obese man has been confined to his bed for the past six years

Perhaps I should spend less time reading the newspapers, but in my situation I’m not sure there’s much else to do once I’ve been out for my jog and spent an hour on the exercise bike!

My latest nugget from the press involves a man who weighs a staggering 39-stone (that’s 248kg or 546 pounds) and has literally outgrown his house. The 67-year-old Michael Williment has put on so much weight that he can no longer move around his specially built bungalow and now requires a couple of carers to hoist him out of his bed and transfer him to a specially adapted armchair where he spends 11 hours each day.

So generous are the authorities in the UK that the man’s local council in Norfolk has agreed to build him a new bungalow at a cost of £300,000 with specially widened corridors and a massive master bedroom.

Since Mr Williment’s last growth spurt, he and his wife Heather have been unable to sleep together. They say they are looking forward to sharing a bed again. “It will be a lot better for us as a married couple,” said Mrs Williment, who admits that her husband’s weight ‘gets me down sometimes’! I think the words she was grasping for may have been crush or flatten.

Mr WIlliment thinks his weight problem was caused by a course of steroids he took as a teenager to treat his eczema. His weight has ballooned since then and Mr Williment now admits he’s given up trying to lose weight. No kidding!

Lucy MacLeod, NHS Norfolk consultant in public health claimed that the main causes of obesity are down to ‘a high calorie diet and a lack of exercise’. No shit, Sherlock! Who’d have thought it? I always wondered how people got fat. In a marvellous piece of NHS-speak, Ms MacLeod added: “NHS Norfolk is committed to working with our partners to encourage members of the public to become more active and facilitate their move towards healthier diets.” I wonder how much she gets paid for spouting that meaningless tripe.

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said the council should be saluted for building Mr Williment a special new home. “We have to have somewhere for this person to live and this house could well be an investment for the future because it can be used by other obese people when he is no longer using it.” That probably won’t be too long, I would think, looking at Mr Williment.

'There's a real need for the NHS to catch these people before things ever get to this state.' I’d agree with that. In fact, I think it would be pretty easy to catch someone like that. I doubt they could run very fast. Hey… even I could catch them!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

There is a God!

For years we've been lectured, hectored and bullied by politicians on matters as diverse as how much we can drink, the salt levels in our diet, our body mass indexes or even the danger of using a mobile phone while driving. Actually that last one seems quite sensible to me even if a lot of people are ignoring the law. I guess that's what happens if you keep introducing new laws like they're going out of fashion, people will just end up ignoring them.

Anyway, despite a fair bit of pain in my legs, something in today's newspapers on this very subject cheered me up enormously. Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, the politically correct harridan Harriet Harman (or Harperson as I prefer to think of her because of her hare-brained equality schemes) has been informed that she's going to be prosecuted for using a mobile phone while driving. Oh yes! Thank you, God!

A court summons will be served on the condescending MP for Camberwell and Peckham after a police investigation into a crash in Dulwich, south-east London on the afternoon of July 3. Ms Harman, 59, is facing charges of driving without due care and attention and driving while using a hand-held mobile telephone, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

If found guilty, Ms Harman could face fines of up to £6,000, and have penalty points imposed on her driving licence; she could even be banned from driving altogether! That could be real bugger for her when she loses the use of her chauffeur-driven Government limo after the next election.

This isn't the first time that Harriet has had her collar felt by The Bill. The minor English aristocrat and horribly irritating former public schoolgirl likes to flaunt her social conscience by bullying the middle classes while patronising the poor. However she rarely follows her own advice and is more of a 'do as I say and not as I do' sort of person.

Isn't it nice to see a politician hoisted on their own petard for a change?

Busy, busy, busy

It's been a busy day. First a trip to see the doctor to get all those boring things done followed by something I've been waiting ages for... a haircut. My favourite barber and good friend Sicilian Sam sorted out months of unruly growth and I almost look human again.

Back home and it's time to see the engineers fit the wood fire we ordered to keep me warm  during the days this winter. And now I'm writing this in front of the glowing fire and trying desperately hard not to fall asleep.

Tonight all that activity hit me but the fresh homemade pizza will help replace the energy.

Mrs TM makes the dough from scratch as well as the sauce

With a salad it's even tastier

I only had a sip of wine as I'm taking painkillers

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Insanity sweeps the country... not swine flu!

Tesco Extra... Extra what? Stupidity?

Courtesy of the Daily Snail, I bring you yet another tale of the mass insanity and total collapse in common sense that is currently sweeping through Great Britain faster than a dose of swine flu. The Government denies that we live in a surveillance society or a police state, but I beg to differ...

"When Richard Graham visited a Marks & Spencer store in South Yorkshire to buy some Christmas crackers, his attention was drawn to a notice informing him that, under the Explosives Act, crackers must not be sold to anyone under 16. Mr Graham is 62."

"In Warwick, a group of students, all over 18, went to Tesco to buy a bottle of wine, a birthday cake and a packet of candles. They were asked for ID, which six could produce but one couldn't. So the cashier refused to sell them the wine. OK, they said, we'll just take the cake and the candles. Sorry, said the cashier, but you can't have the candles, either. Why not? No ID.

"Since when has it been illegal to sell candles to anyone who can't prove they are over 18? The students were left with just the cake. They would have been forgiven for pushing it in the cashier's face."

Is it me?

Why don't we have omelettes more often?

Each time we have omelettes we enjoy them so much we wonder why we don't eat them more often. They're nutritious. inexpensive and quick to prepare. Tonight we had cheese and mushroom omelette made with free-range eggs and accompanied by crispy french fries and a fresh side salad. There's only one small problem... it's not thick enough or tough enough to use as a sole to build up my left shoe to equalise my odd-length legs. NHS omelettes were just perfect for this or any other heavy duty task such as road resurfacing, re-roofing or for use as a damp-proof course. We did try to make a big, thick omelette but I think you need powdered eggs and wallpaper paste to do that.

Penne with bacon, spinach and cheese

It seems only fair that if I'm posting photos of all this lovely food, then you should be able to have the recipes. Now, there are two kinds of cooks in this world: measurers and estimators. We fall into the estimator category, so if that's you then you'll be able to follow this recipe easily.

100g pasta penne per person
1 medium onion
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large bag of fresh spinach leaves
A few handfuls of smoked, diced bacon
A fistful of blue cheese or any other cheese you like (grated or crumbled)
Salt and pepper
250g of crème fraiche
1 teaspoon of whole grain mustard

Chop the onion and the clove of garlic. Soften in a little olive oil (about a tablespoon at most) and fry until they are soft. Don't burn the onion or the garlic so keep the heat low. In the meantime, put some well-salted water onto boil. Now chop some bacon. You can use back bacon or if you can get lardoons or those nice little cubes of Italian smoked ham, then that will be fine. A handful or two will be enough for two people. Put the bacon in the pan with the onion and garlic and just cook it so that it goes a little crispy but without burning the onions. Throw in a pinch of mixed herbs, some freshly ground black pepper and any other flavour that takes your fancy.

Next take a 250g tub of creme fraiche (or you can use thick greek yogurt or some such substitute) and tip it into a bowl and add a nice big teaspoon of whole grain mustard. By now you will have poured your dried pasta penne into the boiling water. Allow about 100g per person (dry weight) and it should take about 9 minutes to cook. Read the pack instructions if you’re not sure. Turn the heat down so the pasta isn’t bubbling furiously, just a rolling boil will be fine.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it and then tip a large bag of fresh spinach into the saucepan. The heat of the pasta will wilt the spinach in a minute or two. Stir to spread the spinach evenly. Now drop in some crumbled or grated blue cheese (St Agur is perfect) or use cheddar or any other cheese you like, if blue isn’t for you. Stir it into the pasta so it melts. Now add the onions and bacon and give it all another stir. Return to a medium heat and add the crème fraiche and stir it all in and make sure the whole dish is hot.

This is a rough-and-ready dish so adjust amounts to suit taste, hunger and personal preferences. Serve straight onto warm plates or put it into a big pasta dish if you want to serve it at table with a bit of elegance. Serve with a salad and a nice, robust red. Australian cabernet would be perfect.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

That's better

Tonight's supper was pasta penne with spinach, bacon, blue cheese and crème fraîche. Tasty and nutritious, and it goes nicely with a nip of Oramorph. My doctor friend came round today to check on me and make sure there wasn't anything too serious going on with my legs and feet. That made me feel a lot better... she also brought some nice chocolate cookies and other treats. Thanks, Jane. Why can't all doctors be like you?

I'm back... with chocolates!

Well, I may have been in great pain these past two days but I couldn’t resist a tiny post today to cheer everyone up and let you know I’m still here and feeling a tiny bit better. Thank you for all your kind messages. They really help and I appreciate it so much. To cheers everyone up I pass on this little snippet that I read today

A Spanish company has invented a chocolate that actually helps you lose weight. The company claims that special amino acids contained in the chocolate send messages to your brain telling you that you aren’t really hungry.

The new chocolates are, the manufacturer claims, no different in taste from ordinary chocolate… in fact the only slight difference is a green tinge that comes from the dietary supplement spirulina, a microscopic algae with a high level of nutrients such as vitamin A and B12, which also have weight loss benefits.

I said the only problem was a slightly green tinge… but I forget to mention the fact that each chocolate cost £1 each. At that sort of price it might be cheaper to opt for liposuction or have a gastric band fitted.

But don’t feel too guilty about eating chocolate because it really is good for you. The Journal of Internal Medicine found that heart attack survivors who eat chocolate regularly are nearly 70 per cent less likely to die from cardiac problems than those who rarely eat it. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which can reduce the risk of blood clots and protect against bowel cancer.

Chocs away!